Tag Archives: Darkness

The Journey of Hope 

Peninsula Community Church

The Journey of Hope 

December 3, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Copyright © 2017 All Rights Reserved Robert W. Odom

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Its A Wonderful Life – Part 2

Peninsula Community Church

Its A Wonderful Life – Part 2

December 13, 2015

Isaiah 9:2-7 The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness, on them has light shone. You have multiplied the nation; you have increased its joy; they rejoice before you as with joy at the harvest, as they are glad when they divide the spoil. For the yoke of his burden, and the staff for his shoulder, the rod of his oppressor, you have broken as on the day of Midian. For every boot of the tramping warrior in battle tumult and every garment rolled in blood will be burned as fuel for the fire. For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and of peace there will be no end, on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish it and to uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time forth and forevermore. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will do this.

Last week we began a series entitled Its A Wonderful Life and we focused on what if Christ had not been born. Today I would like to look at another aspect of this discussion. The key theme that runs through the movie is that George Bailey had reached a point in his life where he believed that the world would be better off without him. For that reason we find George standing on the bridge just outside of time where he he is considering taking the plunge because he wants to end his life. But before he can do so we find Clarence, an angel, jump in the stare first so that George would rescue him.  You see George was his guardian angel and was assigned the task of helping overcome his problems. He gives George the opportunity to visualize what life would be like if he had never lived.

What led him to his decision to take his life in the first place? You see he faced disappointment, discouragement; and he felt he was on a path of failure or at least he thought he was. Let me ask you a question? What kinds of things disappoint you? My guess is what disappoints you may not disappoint someone else. Disappointment is often triggered by unmet needs and desires. There is no doubt that disappointment can be painful, regardless of the magnitude or size of the issue leading to the disappointment. Disappointments cause us to fear and doubt and as a result we can lose hope. The writer of Proverbs reminds us that Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a desire fulfilled is a tree of life (Proverbs 13:12). You know how it is when disappointment comes we find ourselves sick to our stomachs and life seems to spiral out of control and suddenly we wander around life with doubts and regrets. We begin to live in the “what ifs,” “should haves,” and the “could haves.”

Disappointment can be defined as being not settled. Webster defines disappointment as, failing to meet the expectation of or hope of something. It is being frustrated with an event in your life. To be disappointed is to be defeated in expectation. So, when we say that something is disappointing we are saying that that particular issue failed to meet our expectations.

Discouragement means to cause one to lose confidence or enthusiasm. The literal meaning of the word discourage is to “express reversal.” You know how it works. An event or an action happens to you and it causes a reversal of how we feel. Instead of confidence and safety we feel unsettled and life feels as if it is out of control. We begin to look at life in a totally different way and we begin to look at others differently as well. And way too often we begin to look inwardly and begin to cast doubt on our worth at some level.

Last week we read from Paul’s writings to the Romans where he stated that we know that all things work together for the good of those who are called by God. That is a very real statement and it is a reality but our faith is tested when good does not happen. We question God’s love for us. We feel like a failure and we feel that we have lost hope. Does anyone know what I mean?

If you will let me relate a personal experience with you. It began at Christmas 2004. I was on staff at a Baptist church in Virginia. During a one year period we faced not one but multiple levels of disappointment that resulted in discouragement, fear, and at times anger. The first news was that the senior pastor of our church was resigning and would be leaving the church by the end of the year. We received the news the Thursday before he made the announcement to the church. You see in the Baptist church when a pastor leaves and a new one comes in, most likely the whole staff can be changed. We were devastated because we thought we had a better relationship with the pastor and we were concerned because we thought we might have to find a job within a month at Christmas time.

One week later we received a phone call from our son to let us know that he had been living with his girlfriend, she was pregnant and he could not marry her because he had to get a divorce first. We knew none of this until a 45 minute conversation on the phone. In March they hired the new senior pastor who was the youth pastor. He was 17 years my younger. I had been overlooked and to top it off they asked me to mentor him and help him be a better pastor. I agreed outwardly but inwardly I was devastated, disappointed, and so discouraged. It was only three months later that we found ourselves in the hospital where Michelle stayed for over a week and had every test under the sun ran on her. It was here that the original diagnosis of Multiple Sclerosis was made. We felt a darkness overwhelm us and we we so discouraged. Once again outwardly we put on a good front but inwardly we were crushed and devastated. Michelle and I know disappointment and discouragement.

As we dig into our text this morning we find that the Israelites were also in a state of darkness and discouragement because they had faced great disappointment. The nation had walked in sin which led them into captivity. They were being brutally assaulted by their captors. The future hope of being great nation was lost. Their discouragement and disappointment was being revealed as darkness. Their emotions and their life was now darkened. But Isaiah gave them hope and that is the hope we have today.

When we consider disappointment and discouragement we must consider a couple of factors. First of all disappointment happens. It occurs when our expectations are not met or we receive news that is not expected. Disappointment is a reality of our lives. It can be minor or major disappointments or it can be a series of disappointments that negatively impact us. These disappointments lead us to discouragement and fear. Disappointment comes as well when we work hard at something and the results are not what we expected.

Disappointment can be self inflicted because we have false expectations and an over confidence in the action of others and our own ability. If you are alive today, you have faced disappointment. Our children, our parents, our friends, our employers, our co-workers, and our bodies can disappoint us. They fail to live up to our expectations or they do dumb things that cause us to react negatively to their actions. The circumstances of life can also cause us to reach this level of disappointment.

One of the reasons that disappointment effects so much is that we fail to understanding that life is  not always fair. Life will deal us lemons. We also live with the misconception that people will treat us the way we want to be treated and do things the right way. It doesn’t matter whether you are born with a silver spoon, plastic spoon, or no spoon at all. It’s not the circumstances by which you come into this world, but what you make of them once you arrive that really matter.

In connection with this we must know that all of us are impacted by disappointment. It happens to the best of us. It rains on the just and the unjust. Here is the truth, bad things happen to good people and good things happen to bad people. Matthew 5:43-48 “For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.

Secondly, we must understand that our disappointments and discouragements can lead us into darkness. Disappointment can blind us to the realities of life. Disappointments can cause our hearts to be closed off and our minds to be shut off from truth. Disappointment can cause us to focus so much on the problem that we miss the bigger picture. One of the problems with disappointment and discouragement is that we become myopic in our vision for life because disappointment overwhelms us. In essence, our emotions and dreams can be darkened and the light of hope can be extinguished.

In all of this we must remember that Christ has come. As we see in our text today, Christ came to shine his light into our hearts. The Israelites were led into captivity. The Assyrians were rising in power and many of their leaders had died. They were living in a turbulent time and they were filled with disappointment and failures. They did not have an easy life. They were in turmoil and they were disappointed with their circumstances and they were discouraged by the events of their life. But they had a promise. For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. A child has been born and the world’s problems are on His shoulders. Know this, He is not surprised by the things that you are experiencing today.

For us today that promise has been fulfilled. He has come. He is here. Therefore we need to turn to the one who is the wonderful counselor, the mighty God, the everlasting father, and the prince of peace. He has it all under control. He is at work and when we turn to Him a light is shone into the darkness. We receive hope. We receive life. It reminds me of a familiar hymn written so many years ago, “My hope is built on nothing less than Jesus’ blood and righteousness. I dare not trust the sweetest frame, but wholly lean on Jesus’ name. On Christ the solid rock I stand, all other ground is sinking sand.

How are you doing today? Has your heart been darkened by disappointment or discouragement? You can rise again from the darkness of ruined lives. If you hang in there the light of God’s love will shine brightly again, so that while the circumstance of your life may not change, your heart can. Your outlook on life can. You purpose in life can be reestablished. And as George Bailey realized life is worth living and your life has value because you are a child of God and the light of hope has been shined into your life.

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

Copyright © 2015 All Rights Reserved Robert W. Odom

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