Tag Archives: Complaining

Whine or Shine 

Peninsula Community Church 

July 7, 2019

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

For an audio of this message go to http://pccministry.org/messages.

Copyright © 2019 All Rights Reserved Robert W. Odom

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Are You Living as a Free Man or as a Slave

Peninsula Community Church

Are you living as a free man or as a slave?

January 19, 2014

Galatians 4:4-6 But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God.

Today, we are going to look at a important subject that will assist us in understanding how to live life to the fullest as a church and as believers. We touched on this principle just a couple weeks ago, but I believe it is necessary that we spend some time on it this morning. The principle that I want to talk about today is whether or not you are living as a free man in Christ or do you still live as a slave to sin and your past.

As we look at the children of Israel who traveled from Egypt to the promised land, we see that they were a restless and discontented people. One day they were excited about what God was doing, and they were in support of Moses as their leader; but quickly they would turn from expressing thanksgiving and gratitude to wallowing in a spirit of complaining and murmuring. 

When we analyze a complaining spirit one thing is clear. The spirit of murmuring and complaining never brings about positive results. When we exhibit a murmuring or complaining spirit we are never satisfied or content. We are forever lacking a sense of joy and peace. When we complain and murmur it is difficult to live as a free man because we expend too much time looking back at what was and not what is or is to come. 

When we walk in a spirit of criticism and we are filled with murmuring, we exude a negative heart and a negative desire to see things for the good. When we walk in a spirit of criticism, there are times that it does not matter what positive things an individual might do or what a group might do, because when we walk in criticism and complaining, there will always be something to criticize. As we look at this, we must recognize that there is a difference between a critical, complaining, and murmuring spirit; and one that offers constructive criticism. Constructive criticism focuses on the resolution of a problem and it speaks directly to the one that can exact change rather than everyone one else.  

The problem with a critical, complaining, murmuring spirit is that it exudes a mindset that we would rather live as a slave rather than as a free man. A murmuring and complaining spirit can present itself as a slave rather than walking in freedom. To understand this, we only need to look at the life of the Children of Israel. Too often, they lived as if they were still under the control the Pharaoh and not under the control of God. What we see in their heart is that while they were out of Egypt, the Egypt mindset was still in control of their heart. It is like the old saying “you can take the girl out of the country but you can’t take the country out of the girl.” For the children of Israel, you could take them out of Egypt but it was much more difficult to take Egypt out of their hearts. The desire was that they would begin to live as freemen who were free from the bondage of Egypt, free from the slavery of Pharaoh, and free from the labor that was to be given to another. 

For the purpose of our discussion today, let me share with you a couple of thoughts about living as slaves rather than as free men. The first thought is that we can believe the lie that says we cannot change rather than speaking the truth that I am already changed by the power of the Gospel. The lie and the truth are opposed to one another. In other words, we will live in torment when we try to live both the lie and the truth in our lives. It behooves us, therefore, to come to the place where we determine that we will live from the truth that I have been changed by the power of the gospel and that I do not have to live as a slave any longer. To overcome the lie, we must accept the fact that the work of Christ is complete in us. We must begin to take the steps to accept the truth that change is possible. Listen to what Paul says to us:

Galatians 4:4-7 But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God.

Romans 6:15-18 What then? Are we to sin because we are not under law but under grace? By no means! Do you not know that if you present yourselves to anyone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin, which leads to death, or of obedience, which leads to righteousness? But thanks be to God, that you who were once slaves of sin have become obedient from the heart to the standard of teaching to which you were committed, and, having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness.

We do not have to live as slaves because we are sons of God.

The second issue we face is that we can fear change more than we fear slavery itself. The problem is that we can become so familiar and comfortable with the lifestyle of slavery that we  we don’t know recognize freedom when we have it. Too often we have lived in slavery for so long; we have become comfortable as slaves. The problem is that slavery has become a familiar place for us to reside. We know where we have come from, but we can be afraid of where we are headed. We walk in fear because we don’t know what the future will look like. Too often, we would rather live in the past than trust the Lord who knows the future. We must be shaken from our complacency and move toward change. Sometimes, when we fail to do this God sends a catalysis that will encourage our change. It may be an earthquake. It may be sickness. It may be a revelation of who we really are to others. 

The third issue is this that too often we can be bound by loyalty to our personal and family history. The problem here is that we all have an identity. You see our friends see us one way. Our families see us another way. Our coworkers may see us in a total different way. We can be afraid that if we begin to follow God, remove ourselves from a spirit of slavery, and begin to see change in our lives, we will get criticized and belittled for the changes we make. Perhaps we are afraid of what we may have to give up in order to see change come. Perhaps there is a feeling that we need to be true to our family, we need to be true to a history, we need to be true to who we are you, and we need to be true to our culture. The answer to this is that we need to be true to who we are as a new creation in Christ. Only as we see ourselves as a new creation will we begin to see the right change come to our hearts.

The fourth issue that is that too often we can continue to return to enslaving habits. We do this because these habits are comfortable for us. These habits are a safeguard for us. They are the place we go to when we don’t know what else to do. When we get stressed out, we overindulge in alcohol. When things do not go our way, we get angry and lash out at others. When we face difficulty, we clam up rather than dealing with the issues before us. For others, when things are uncomfortable or issues arise, they turn to food or to things that are not beneficial to their health.

Is interesting to note that the children of Israel who had everything they needed had a desire to go back to Egypt and eat the food of the Pharaoh rather than live under freedom they had. You can look at the children of Israel with scorn and displeasure at this decision, but we too are guilty of doing the same thing in our lives. Too often, we desire the things of the past rather than the new life that is ahead of us.

The last issue is that too often we can practice self deception about our past slavery. How quickly we can forget how painful slavery is for us? If we do not continue to feed upon the word of God, if we do not continue to look at the blessings that God has bestowed upon us, it is so easy for us to live out of the past rather than in the present hope that is ours. The cry of the Israelites was for God to get them out of this horrible place now! God answers and sets them free from Egypt. They pass through the Red Sea and now they are in the wilderness. It is interesting to note that rather than giving praise to God for what God is doing, they are reminiscing about the good old days when they were slaves. Yes that’s right, they were having a conversation and looking back at their slavery, as if somehow it were freedom and better than their current circumstance.

Have you every lived that way before? God gets you out of a serious situation and then look back and proclaim that those were good times. But, they were not good times, and they won’t be good times if you revisit them now. We are good at exchanging reality for fantasy. How many of you, you have old friends like this? You get together and you’re like, “Remember when we were in high school?” No, I don’t, because we were alcoholics. I blacked out from my sophomore year to graduation. No, I don’t remember high school. “It was awesome. Remember that time you threw up?” Yeah, it wasn’t that awesome, right? Some of you have friends like that, and they only want to talk about the old days and romanticize and fantasize about the old days.

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5 Commitments for 2014

Peninsula Community Church

5 Commitments for 2014

January 5, 2013

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

In preparing for this message I began to consider the idea of making New Years resolutions. As you might guess, the idea of making New Years resolutions is nothing new but I wondered where the concept of making resolutions come from. In researching this, I found that the ancient Babylonians made promises to their gods at the start of each year that they would return borrowed objects and pay their debts. If you were the one who loaned an item that would be a great resolution for someone else to make. The Romans began each year by making promises to the god Janus, for whom the month of January is named. In the Medieval era, the knights took the “peacock vow” at the end of the Christmas season each year to re-affirm their commitment to chivalry. (From Wikipedia).

I am sure that each of us has in some way considered the idea of making resolutions going into this new year. Perhaps you have considered losing weight which by the way is the most popular resolution made each year. For others, it could be the idea of being nicer. For others it could be the idea of doing more for others. It could be watching less TV and spending more time in the Word and in prayer. While all of these are good ideas it is interesting to note that 88% of all resolutions made end in failure. It has also been noted however that 22% more resolutions are kept when they are shared with someone else. 

For us as believers, who are passionate followers of Christ, the idea of resolutions can also be a part of our lives. To come to the end of one year and begin another year is very much a time of evaluation and renewal. For me personally, I try to use the week between Christmas and New Years as a time to reevaluate where I am. What are my goals? How did I do with my goals from the previous year? When I was growing up it was a common event to have watch night services where we would close the year with thanksgiving and a commitment to follow Christ with a renewed spirit of trust and faith. 

As I thought about this idea of resolutions, I would like to suggest a couple of commitments for you consideration. Now I will quickly say that this is not an inclusive list. In fact, if you were to be in my place and were sharing this message, you might share a different list and that would be fine. In fact, if I were to preach this same message at some point in the future, I might use a different list. The idea is that this is not an inclusive list but are simple some key commitments for us to consider.

The first consideration is to commit to seeing the miracles and blessings of God around you. This is important for us as we can get sidetracked by the circumstances and cares of life. A heart that looks for the miracles and blessings of God around us is one that is filled with gratitude and thankfulness. There is so much in our world that can pull us down and create in us a ungrateful heart. When we don’t look for the miracles of God around us, our hearts can be filled with grumbling, complaining, and ungratefulness. We see this in the life of the Children of Israel. It is amazing to me that there appears to be a huge cycle of gratefulness and then murmuring and complaining. You see God would meet their need and would provide for them. Miracles were happening all around them, and yet they would fall into a grumbling and complaining attitude. One day they are angry with God. On another day they are trying to get rid of Moses as their leader. But when we commit to see the miracles of God around us we will be less likely to complain and grumble. When we focus on God’s blessings and on what He has done for us, we are more likely to be filled with a heart of gratitude and blessings.

The second consideration is to be less judgmental and more understanding of others. I have been reading a couple of books here lately. One of the books is by Pastor Jack Graham, the senior pastor of Prestonwood Baptist Church in Dallas Texas. In his book, Unseen, Jack makes an observation about his life as he is getting older. He stated that as he is aging, there is a tendency for him to be more judgmental. He commented that he can begin to judge the way others act, what they say, how they dress, and so on. I too have recognized this tendency in my own life. As we get older, we have the potential to believe that we have arrived and can develop “a know it all attitude.” I am sure that I am not the only one with such a mentality as they get older. When we experience a judgmental attitude we can miss out on seeing others for who they are or from understanding where they are coming from and why they do what they do. For me, I never want to become John and Max from “Grumpy Old Men.” These two men are played by Walter Matthau and Jack Lemmon. John and Max have habitual complained and argued so much in their life that they do not know how to live without arguing and fighting and trying to one up each other. While they fought you also realize that inwardly they are miserable and unsatisfied with life. They are grumpy old men. May we never become grumpy old men.

The third consideration is to have a greater commitment to sharing your faith with others. Studies have shown that those believers who share their faith are happier and more grateful for their own relationship with Christ. To clarify, this applies to those who have developed a commitment to share their faith as a lifestyle rather than a legalistic need to accomplish some task so they can check that action off of their spiritual list of things to do. Sharing our faith can come in many styles, ways, and ideas. For example, sharing an encouraging word to one who is discouraged is one way we share our faith. Sharing our faith has as much to do with our attitude as it does our words. When we share our faith with others we are more appreciative of our own relationship with others. There is a principle that applies here that says as we give away to others we understand the value of what we have. We also appreciate what we have in Christ even more.

The fourth consideration is to determine to live as one forgiven and as a forgiver of others. A second book I have been reading highlights this idea of forgiveness. Forgiveness initiates healing and right focus. The story is of Abraham Lincoln who attempted to walk in forgiveness to the best of his ability. Secondly the author rehearsed a story from the civil war that has always been a powerful story in my mind. When the war was over and the surrender documents had been signed, there were a couple of actions taken by the northern army that changed the course of American history. Because of the pain and death exhibited by the civil war, Grant and those under him could have been antagonistic and demoralizing to the southern army. 

After the signing of the surrender documents by Lee and Grant, we see Grant do something that expressed honor and forgiveness to General Lee. As Grant stood on the porch of the McClain home, Grant tipped his hat to Lee as Lee mounted his horse. In those days this was a sign of respect and honor. Even though Lee had been the enemy, Grant recognized that a greater result would come from moving forward with honor more than dishonor. Grant realized that the nation could only heal as forgiveness was given freely whether Lee and the army of the South would ever receive the act of forgiveness or whether they deserved it for that matter. By accomplishing this act, Grant not only released Lee from the past but Grant himself was releasing himself from the burden of the past experiences and the past hurts of the war. Grant was also an example to his troops, as well. For example, John Chamberlain, commander of the 20th Maine, who stood against the charge of the Alabama troops at Gettysburg also showed great honor to Lee and his men. As Lee was retreating from the McClain house, Chamberlain without a thought and in a spontaneous manner called his troops to attention and a salute. It was these acts that began to bring to healing to a divided nation. For us too, the act of forgiveness can begin that process of healing broken lives and broken hearts. Remember, forgiveness is always about the one doing the forgiveness (Matthew 6:12-14). Jesus Himself says that when we forgive we too are forgiven. When we forgive there is a reciprocal spiritual act of forgiveness in us. You see when we forgive others, we are released from our own issues of failure, regret, and guilt. With that said, it is often harder to forgive ourselves than it is to forgive others. We are driven by our guilt, fear and failures than by the wholeness we have through forgiveness. But, forgiving others is the start to forgiving ourselves.

The fifth consideration is to commit to renew or deepen your love for God. As we read the Book of Revelation, we see in the letters to the Seven Churches that one of the complaints against the Church of Ephesus was that they had lost their first love (Revelations 2:2-4). They were no longer motivated by love and by the gifts that God had given them. They were motivated more by legalism and a regimented fulfillment of the law than by God’s love as a motivator. Their actions were not aligned with the love that had been given them and that should be the motivator of their heart. The result was that they were good about keeping the law but the growth of their heart was stunted. They were much like the Israelites in the Old Testament who were condemned for offering sacrifices without the heart to back it up (Isaiah 29:13-14 and Matthew 15:8-9).

Are you ready? Do any of these resonate with you today? Are any of the above doable for you? Are there other prospects for change to make your life more effective for Christ? You can do it. You can change. You can be an effective warrior for Christ.

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