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Dressed for Battle

Peninsula Community Church 

Dressed for Battle

October 28, 2018 

Ephesians 6:10-13  Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm.

In today’s world many professions have a dress code of sorts. Football players wear uniforms. These uniforms identity the team, the player’s number, and their name, usually. The uniform in essence serves to identity who they are, whose team they are on, and it provides a level of protection or security. A fire fighter wears turnout gear which includes a helmet, a jacket, pants, boots, gloves, and ID badge. These items are worn to identify who they are and for protection. A police office wears a uniform with a badge, a bulletin proof vest, a radio, and cameras. These items serve to identify who they are and the vest, camera, and radio serves to protect them. The same is true in regards to the spiritual armor Paul calls us to wear. By wearing the armor, we are identified by our Lord and people know what team we are on. By wearing the armor we are protected from the enemy’s schemes. To be effective we must wear it. It cannot stay in the closet.

It is noteworthy that in our passage, Paul instructs us to put on the whole armor of God. As I was preparing for this, I was struck by the fact that he exhorted us to put on the whole armor, the complete armor, all of the armor. The insinuation is that we are not to go into battle half dressed. Doing so makes us vulnerable and gives room for the enemy to attack the areas not covered by the armor. Without the whole armor of God we are in fact set up for defeat because the enemy is very aware of our weaknesses when we are not fully dressed. Our enemy is the master of distraction. He is the master of deception and falsehood. He is the master of distortion and he seems to know right where to attack because he knows the spots that are uncovered. 

We are to put on the complete armor therefore we cannot pick and choose which part we will wear. We must put on the complete armor. Why is this? It is because we are less than effective when we pick and choose what pieces to wear. Paul exhorts us to stand in God’s strength and we do that best when we put on the whole armor of God. In doing so, we stand and do not give room to the enemy. We stand strong so he does not advance against us or the kingdom of God. As believers, we are to stand because God is the One who wins our battles.

In preparing for this, I was thinking about what Paul exhorted us to do. It was critical enough that he said it twice. I had an amazing thought in this regard. If this armor protects us from the schemes of the enemy, then we need the complete whole armor to fight against and counter those schemes. We cannot go into battle half dressed. For example, it is possible that we can put on the helmet of salvation but fail to put on the belt of truth. We are saved, or at least we believe we are, but our actions and thoughts are not founded in truth, because we do not have the belt of truth securely fastened. The result is that we become tormented by falsehoods, lies, and half truths presented to us. We begin to believe the lies and live as if the lies are true. The result is that we believe we need to work harder, strive more, and be more perfect. We can believe that we are never good enough or righteous enough for God. The result is that we are never satisfied with our relationship with Christ, with others, or our circumstances. We feel defeated because we have not settled the truth in our minds that we are believers who are saved by faith and through His grace.

Without the belt of truth, we will have a distorted view of God and of ourselves. From the beginning of time, the enemy has been at work to distort the truth and cause mankind to believe the lie about who God is and what He requires. It is for that reason, so many think that God is angry with them, and that they have done too much for God to redeem them or set them free. The helmet of Salvation along with the belt of truth leads to correct thinking. 

It is also possible that we can have the helmet of salvation on but fail to strap on the gospel of peace. When this occurs, we tend to look to other sources rather than the gospel of Christ to bring us peace. In the end, this causes confusion about our identity and whose we are. In our world today there are so many voices that are speaking into our life. Media continues to tell us we are not good enough unless we drive a certain car. We are not beautiful unless we wear a certain makeup or drink a certain drink. We are not attractive unless we wear a certain aftershave or dress in a certain way. If we could only win the Mega Ball or the Power Ball drawing! These voices tend to give us a false identity. They cause us to strive to be something that God never created us to be. 

When pastoring in New York, I had a lady call me to ask my advice about a very important subject but I had to chuckle because she prefaced the question with “I have talked to my psychiatrist, my psychologist, my counselor, my medical doctor, and my other pastor, and I was wondering what you thought.” One of her major issues was the confusion she had because too many people were speaking into her life and were giving her conflicting opinions. She was not looking for truth, she was looking for the answer she wanted to hear.

There are a lot of great people in the world with a lot of worldly wisdom and wise sayings. But, we need more than witty sayings, and worldly wisdom, we need the power of God at work in our life. We need the power of the gospel to guide and direct our steps. We need the wisdom of God to be at work in us. That wisdom only comes from the gospel of Christ. When our feet do not have the gospel strapped on we will be misdirected and misguided. That is why David stated so clearly that God’s word was a light unto his path. It was the source of his decision making and it was the source of his hope (Psalm 119:105). Without the Gospel of peace, we can roam aimlessly through life and never realize that we have been called to a greater purpose. That calling is to influence those around us. We are called to go where God leads and do what God calls us to do. 

We can have on the helmet of salvation but fail to secure the breastplate of righteousness. Without the breastplate of righteousness we can believe that we have to work to be good enough. We try to live by the rules without grace. We try to tow the line without the power of God. We fail to remember that we are righteous by His righteousness. It is only through His shed blood on Calvary that we are righteous. It is imputed to us and not earned. That is truth.

We can have the helmet of salvation but forget to wear the sword of the Spirit. The sword is one of two offensive weapons we have. Without the sword of the spirit we are often more reactive than active. We are often misguided in our focus in terms of our enemy and who that is. Without the sword of the spirit we try to fight battles in a way that God never intended. We try to fight battles that have already been fought and won by our Lord. We become weary and tired because we are fighting with weapons God never intended for us to use. When we surrender to the Spirit, we will have His power to assist us and guide us. 

We can also have on the helmet of salvation but not hold the shield of faith to extinguish the fiery darts that the enemy flings at us. Without the shield of faith we are susceptible to the darts and painful parts of life. Sometimes faith is all we have to make it through. We do not see the future very clearly, but faith keeps us going. We do not know how we will endure, but by faith we keep moving forward. After all faith is the assurance of things hoped for and confidence of things not seen (Hebrews 11:1). The fiery darts seek to cloud our vision, but by faith we see through the darkness to the light of day. 

Finally, we can have the helmet of salvation but miss out on the greatest offensive weapon we have and that is prayer. Without prayer we easily become discouraged and distraught. Prayer is the greatest weapon we have in our arsenal. Prayer is our connection with command central. It is our connection with God alone. It is the source of power. 

As a soldier, you would never go to war without proper training, weapons, and protective gear. The Bible is our training guide. Our life experiences and our spiritual walk become our boot camp. The temptations, trials, and attacks we face are all a part of the warfare. As a Christian engaged in spiritual conflicts, you must never leave home without the armor of God! And let me tell you it is much better than American Express. 

As we close, I came across this prayer in regard to the armor of God. Let me share it with you. Equip me, Lord with the belt of truth. May your truth rule in my heart and be in my mind and on my lips today. Equip me Lord with the breastplate of righteousness. Apart from You there is no righteousness, but through Jesus I have been “born again” and made righteous in Your sight. May I live as a righteous person. Equip me Lord with feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the Gospel of peace. May I reflect the Gospel in my words and actions, that through me, with my every encounter, others may be drawn one step closer to You. Equip me Lord with the shield of faith. May I take You at Your word concerning promises about the present and future—promises of everlasting love, abundant life, and so much more. Equip me Lord with the helmet of salvation. Remind me that nothing can separate me from Your love and that I’ve  been saved by grace. In Your grace, help me to say “no” to all ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live a self-controlled, upright, and godly life (Titus 2:12,13). Equip me Lord with the sword of the Spirit, the Word of God. May Your Holy Spirit reign in my life and bring to my mind just the right Bible verses to be in my heart and on my lips. May I be “filled with the Spirit” and ready with Scripture as You were, Jesus, when the devil tempted You. And, finally, keep me in an attitude of prayer. Remind me to “pray in the Spirit on all occasions.” Cause me to be alert and always praying for the saints; to be joyful and to give thanks in everything (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18).

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

Copyright © 2018 All Rights Reserved Robert W. Odom

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Control is an Illusion

Peninsula Community Church

Control is an Illusion

July 15, 2018 

Mark 4:35-41 On that day, when evening had come, he said to them, “Let us go across to the other side.” And leaving the crowd, they took him with them in the boat, just as he was. And other boats were with him. And a great windstorm arose, and the waves were breaking into the boat, so that the boat was already filling. But he was in the stern, asleep on the cushion. And they woke him and said to him, “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?” And he awoke and rebuked the wind and said to the sea, “Peace! Be still!” And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm. He said to them, “Why are you so afraid? Have you still no faith?” And they were filled with great fear and said to one another, “Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?”

Last week we looked at Jehoshaphat and how God protects us and keeps us. The focus of our study this morning will be on what happens when we do everything right, and God does not hold up to His part of the bargain? What do you do when it feels that God has let us down? Or at least we think He does! What do you do when things are out of our control? In other words, what do you do when you lose control of a situation, event, or person?

This issue of control is seen in the story before us today. Three of the four gospels have some version of this story that impacts the disciples. Let us look at this story and then make a few comments. After a day of ministry, we find that Jesus tells the disciples to get into the boat and go to the other side of the lake. Jesus joins them and off they go. On their journey, they encountered a storm! Imagine this picture with me. Jesus commanded them to get in the boat and go to the other side. He is right there with them. He commanded, they obeyed.

Jesus was with them, and yet they encountered a fierce storm. It should be noted that this was not a normal storm. We find the disciples were greatly afraid. To understand their fear, we must remember that most of the disciples were fishermen and they had been out on this same lake many times before. They had encountered all kinds of storms in the past, but this storm was a different storm altogether. It effected them to the core of their being. We find the storm was so massive and powerful that water was overflowing into the boat. This could result in the boat sinking and them losing their lives. They were afraid. How many times have you faced a storm that rushed in and overpowered you? It was so powerful that you risked death or you felt like you would drown.

In 1980 I had boarded a plane that was headed from Atlanta to La Guardia airport. I was in God’s will as I was traveling around the US for the ministry that I was leading. It was a normal day but after we took off the weather turned nasty. I had flown many times before and was on other planes when other storms had hit but this flight was different. The plane we were on began to be tossed. We continually felt the storm causing the plane to rise, fall, and shake. I can tell you there was some fear that arose and I was not feeling very safe. I had never worried about crashing before but that thought crossed my mind many times during this flight. I was so excited when we finally landed at LGA. I literally got on the ground and kissed it. 

In this story, we find the disciples had been obedient to Jesus’ command. They had gotten into the boat and had begun to travel to the other side of the lake. What they did not anticipate was the storm that was to blow in. You see they could control the boat. They could control their actions, but they could not control the storm, nor could they control the outcome of the storm.

Even though the disciples were right where they were suppose to be, they encountered a great storm. They were in this situation because they were in obedience to Jesus’ command. One of the great lies propagated by the enemy is that if we encounter a storm, there must be something wrong with us. The enemy of our soul loves to take the storms and issues of life that are beyond our control, and use them to demoralize us and make us feel that we have failed or we are in some state of error. There are times when the storms we face are a result of our actions or our decisions. We face storms because of our failures and because of the sin in our life, but in this case they were right where God wanted them to be. 

For the disciples, notice here they were powerless to control the storm nor could they control Jesus. It is noteworthy that even the best of us can be overwhelmed by the storms of life. We can be a old salt as a Christian so to speak. We can navigate almost anything but then there is that thing, that one event or series of events that rock our world and unsettles us to the core. Lack of control can result in fear which is a powerful emotion. All of us deal with such things at some moment in time. There is the fear of loss. There is the fear of the unknown. There is the fear of pain. There is the fear of death. There is the fear of a hostile world. The result of fear is that we can either be motivated to act in positive ways or it can paralyze us.

Because of the entrapments of the enemy, we are all prone to wander from God’s plan and purpose for our lives. I love the old hymn Come Thou Fount of Blessing. There is a line or two in there that speaks to this. The writer states Bind my wandering heart to Thee. Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it, Prone to leave the God I love; Here’s my heart, O take and seal it, Seal it for Thy courts above. The point here is that we often try to control that which we cannot control and that is tiring and wearisome. It is fruitless.

We are most often effected by what we cannot control. When we feel we have lost control our world gets turned upside down. The fact is we all love to control things to some degree or another. We all love to have things in order and we love to control our destiny. The problem is when our plans do not always work out, we can get bent out of shape and feel distraught.  

Where was Jesus in all of this? He was asleep on the stern of the boat on a cushion. He was not effected by the storm but the disciples were. They panicked and they called to Jesus. “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?” Notice, they felt that Jesus is not responding to their needs. The disciples who were seasoned fishermen and were acquainted with storms and problems on the lake panicked. For them, everything was out of control. They could not control the storm and they could not control Jesus. 

I wonder if they thought, Jesus, we did our part but you are not living up to your part. We got in this boat because you told us to. If we are honest, we probably all face a moment where we feel that Jesus has failed us. We question whether Jesus is actually with us and whether He is in control. Sometimes, when the pressures of life are overwhelming and seem to overpower us, we can believe God has failed us. We can feel that God is not doing His part. We too can proclaim and at times scream in our hearts, “Oh God where are you?” 

Listen to the words of the disciples. “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?” There is so much in this statement. Do you not care? Are you just going to sleep through all of this? Do you not see what is going on here? It is at this point in our walk with Christ that our faith is tested. Do you ever feel that way? 

Notice what Jesus does after this. Scripture says And he awoke and rebuked the wind and said to the sea, “Peace! Be still!” And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm. He said to them, “Why are you so afraid? Have you still no faith?” Notice that in a moment Jesus spoke to the wind and there was calm. The storm that moments before was overflowing into the boat, was now calm. The storm that once seemed as if it was going to sink the boat, was now carrying them across the lake to the other side, which was their destination to begin with. While Jesus may seem distant, He is there all of the time. He is on the journey with us. He is near to us. He has not left us nor has He forgotten us. 

Jesus addresses their faith and their fear. Rather than trust Him, they had moved in fear. You see faith and fear are opposed to one another. Faith is opposed to fear and fear counteracts our faith. Fear causes us to be out of focus. For the disciples, they had seen the miracles of God, they had received the teachings of Christ, but these things had not impacted their faith. We can go to church every Sunday. We can go to conferences. We can read books. The question, however, is “Have we grown in our faith?” What we do must cause us to develop a greater faith in Christ. 

In this story, I am amazed at the response of the disciples, once the storm is calmed. You would think they would have been overjoyed but instead they are afraid. But this is a different kind of fear. Their fear of the storm turned to an awe inspiring fear because of what Jesus just did. He spoke and the winds ceased and the storm was abated. And they were filled with great fear and said to one another, “Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?”

They were amazed and they walked in the awe of the miracle God had provided. Their fear turned from worry to being overwhelmed with the power of Jesus to control the storm. Their loss of control turned to victory, and their confidence in Jesus to control every problem we experience. So let me ask you? Where is Jesus? Do you feel He has left you? The truth is He has not left us. He is in the boat. He is at peace. He is in control. We can rest in that. 

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

Copyright © 2018 All Rights Reserved Robert W. Odom

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Are You Having a Crisis of Faith?

Peninsula Community Church 

Are You Having a Crisis of Faith?

April 8, 2018

Matthew 28:16-20 Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. And when they saw him they worshiped him, but some doubted. And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

This week I have been dealing with this question. After the resurrection what do we do? How do we deal with all that transpired? How do we get past the celebration of the event and move to an ongoing celebration of life? Last week, we celebrated the festivities of Easter, the clothes, and of course all of the food. Last week we had a great service. We focused on the power and the truth of the resurrected Lord. But here is a truth, we do not and we cannot continue to stand at the empty tomb and expect life to change. We must begin to live in the reality of the resurrected Lord. We must move beyond the tomb to live life to the fullest. While this is true, as I was preparing this message, I could not help but focus on the fact that while some worshipped Jesus others doubted. This occurred after His resurrection. It is that doubt that keeps many from moving forward to live a resurrected life.

Our tendency might be to judge or criticize those who doubted. This is so easy to do. In reality, doubt is often a result of difficult circumstances and problems. It is interesting that the word doubt means “to be hung in suspense.” It means that we are at a crossroad of decision making. Decision making can negatively impact us because the results of our decision are unknown or undecided. From a spiritual standpoint, doubt is a place where God seems to be distant or seems to be unaware of what we are going through. It is a place where have more unanswered prayers than ones that have been answered. It is my guess that we have all faced this kind of doubt. We have all encountered issues that seem to have no answers or at least any easy answers. We are faced with trusting God, and the promises of God, because we do not have solid answers and there is no hope found in the circumstances we face. 

For some of the disciples, as well as others, who followed Christ, the events of the last few days and weeks had left them in doubt and struggling with a crisis of faith. They were hung in suspense as to what had happened and what was going to happen. They were hung in the suspense of wanting to have the right answers. They wanted to believe but everything that had transpired for them was a bit more than they could handle. Some of those who doubted agreed with what Christ had done but they struggled with who He was. Others knew who He was, but they struggled with what He had done. Their vision of Christ did not match up to the reality of their heart or the teachings of Christ. What they knew and believed about Jesus had been shaken and now they were struggling to keep everything in perspective, even though He had risen from the dead. You see they were face to face with Jesus, and yet they still had doubts.

We too can face a crisis of faith when the trials we encounter cause us to struggle with prayers that go unanswered. We face the pressure of circumstances that seem to not change or in fact they get worse. This can cause us to be be shaken to the core of our faith. We can even begin to question the validity of our faith. We can begin to question whether or not we have been betrayed by God Himself. We can reason that we are doing our best but He is not doing His part. These unanswered questions nag at our hearts: Is God really who He says He is? Can God do what He says He can do? We have taught others that God is good, loving, and faithful and now we wonder if that is really true.

As we consider one’s crisis of faith, I believe there are some benefits to dealing with a crisis of faith. If we choose to follow God by faith and in obedience to His Word, our crisis of faith will lead us to a deeper understanding of God and who He is. Sometimes we need to choose to follow Him by faith, even when we do not have all the answers much less all of the questions. I love what we find in 1 Kings 18:21. Elijah made this challenging proclamation “How long will you go limping between two different opinions? If the LORD is God, follow him; but if Baal, then follow him.”

The first benefit is that a crisis of faith forces us to take a hard look at what we believe. What a benefit that is. In our humanness, we can become comfortable with a belief system that may or may not be correct. For example, my faith in Christ has been tested many times. There have been times where I have needed a divine intervention from God but it did not seem to be happening. It seemed that He was delaying His answer and that He was not concerned. My faith crisis was in believing that God did not really care. I had the feeling that He had forgotten me? I began to question if I was good enough. When God did answer in His time, my view of God as the faithful One was strengthened, and thus what I believed about God was confirmed. 

Secondly, a crisis of faith leads to more authentic convictions. When we experience a crisis of faith the last thing we need to do to is deny it. Instead of denying the issue, lean into your crisis of faith and face your doubts. As a result, authenticity will be a characteristic of your life. Here is the deal, God knows your doubts already, so you might as well be honest with Him about them. Only when you face the truth about your doubts are you able to move forward toward a more authentic faith. If we allow fear to rule and we deny our doubts, our faith will not be as strong as it should be. God honors truthfulness and He already knows what we are thinking. 

Third, a crisis of faith invites you to a stronger and more deeply-rooted faith. By accepting that we are in a crisis of faith, we have the capacity to admit we need God. Can you imagine the children of Israel standing before the Red Sea? Behind them was an army rushing at full speed toward them. Ahead of them was a river that was impossible to cross with a million people or more. Their leader was an old man who has nothing but a stick in his hand. Do you think they had a crisis of faith? These and other stories have been recorded through Scripture to give us hope and help us to navigate life when doubt comes and we struggle with our own crisis of faith.

When the events we face cause us to believe we cannot go on serving God, what do we do? How do we keep the Easter story alive in our heart? I believe this passage gives us some answers. This may be a different look at this passage than we are use to, but here we go. First of all, we worship. Worship is a key component to living in the reality of the resurrected Christ and moving beyond our crisis of faith. The word worship is a great word. This word comes from the old English word “weorthscipe” which means to ascribe or give value to something or someone. As we give value to something or someone, we tend to worship or value that thing or person. When it comes to Christ, He is already worthy but we must value the gift He has given us. We must ascribe worth and value for who He is and what He is about. 

The second solution is to recognize that we have been called to a higher purpose. Notice that Jesus did not distinguish between the disciples who worshipped Him and the ones who doubted. He called them all with the same purpose and calling. No matter who you are as a believer, He is calling you to find a purpose. This gives us a reason to look beyond where we are and allows us to refocus on something greater than ourselves. Perhaps one reason we are facing a crisis of faith is that we have not determined our purpose in Christ’s Kingdom. 

What does He call us to do? Here Jesus issued this command. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. Notice a couple of things here. First, we are to go. This speaks of action. We are to go people and not wait for them to come to us. To go means we have an outward focus on evangelism. He called them all to go into the world. Let me make a critical point here. We are all called to share Christ with those we encounter. By going our focus is shifted from our struggle with faith to seeing those who need of Jesus and those who need hope for a better day. 

 

The third way to counter our crisis in faith is to remember, He is with us all of the time. He never leaves us. He is, has been, and always will be with us. That brings us hope and inspiration to face a better day. It encourages us to move in obedience to touch those lives we encounter. 

So how are you today? Are you living with a crisis of faith? Are living with doubt? Maybe today God wants to show you are new purpose and a new reason to focus on Him. Maybe today, He wants you to worship Him regardless of where you are circumstantially. What about it? Are you ready to soar with faith?

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

Copyright © 2018 All Rights Reserved Robert W. Odom

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The Resurrection is no Joke

Peninsula Community Church

The Resurrection is no Joke

April 1, 2018 

1 Corinthians 15:12-19 Now if Christ is proclaimed as raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain. We are even found to be misrepresenting God, because we testified about God that he raised Christ, whom he did not raise if it is true that the dead are not raised. For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied.

This morning we celebrate Easter which is Resurrection Sunday. It is interesting that this particular Easter falls on April 1 which is April Fool’s Day. The last time this occurred was in 1956. That was sixty-two years ago. Easter will not happen on April 1 again until 2029 and after that in 2040. Following that, we will not see Easter fall on April Fool’s Day again this century. The reason for this is that Easter is set as the first Sunday after the first full moon after Spring begins. That is why Easter is on a different Sunday each year.  

Historically, April Fool’s Day has been known as the day we play practical jokes on one another. There have been some interesting practical jokes through the years. One of the funniest for me was when the BBC ran a report that they had found trees responsible for growing spaghetti. In fact, they showed a photo of workers harvesting spaghetti from the trees in order to prove the news story. Following the report, they were immediately inundated with calls from people wanting to know where they could purchase the spaghetti trees and if they could buy them with penne or lasagna. Another interesting one to me was the April Fool’s Day that Burger King offered a left handed whopper for those who were southpaws. They advertised that all of the condiments had been turned 180 degrees to accommodate those who were left handed. 

While we might laugh at these stories, there were some in Jesus’ day, and today as well, who try to classify the story of Christ’s resurrection as a hoax, a joke, or a made up story. But as we will see today, the story of the resurrection is no joke. For a moment, let me review some of the excuses and the reasoning given against the resurrection, and then we will look at the truth of the resurrection, and how we benefit from the greatest miracle ever to occur. 

After the resurrection, some tried to say that Jesus had not actually died, He had just fallen asleep and had passed out due to the severity of His injuries. In their minds, He never rose, because He never actually died. Others suggest that His disciples had stolen the body of Christ and thus made up the story of the resurrection to hide the truth. Another theory proposed is that the disciples and His witnesses so loved Him and were so distraught they actually hallucinated His resurrection. Others suggest the disciples were so overwhelmed with sadness and regret, they only imagined that He had risen. Still others questioned the validity of the witnesses and what they actually saw. If the witnesses could be discredited, then the news of the resurrection could be discredited.

We hear a lot today about fake news but this is not a new idea. This goes back to Jesus’ time where false news stories were being filtered through the town to cover up the truth of the resurrection. The stories go on and on, but these stories beg the question that if these things were true, then why would the disciples put their lives on the line the way they did. To propagate such a lie cost them so much. The message of the resurrected Christ cost them their lives, their homes, and their future. So, why would anyone propagate such a story knowing that it would cost them everything. The reason of course is that this was not a lie, it was the truth and they continued with this message because it was a message of life and hope.

With that said, let me give you three reasons why the resurrection is no joke. First, of all our faith is based in the truth of the resurrection. Paul stated, But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain. Paul tells us that if there was no resurrection then our preaching and our faith is all in vain and is useless.

Here is the fact, by faith and through the preaching of the word, we know life’s disappointments, injustices, and failures can be overcome, because He is alive. Remember the story. On Friday, there was a lack of hope. There was not too much to celebrate. Christ was dead and was now lying in a borrowed tomb. The disciples were filled with regret and fear. Their faith had been shaken. And now rather than being strong and passionate about Christ, they were hiding in the darkness of a closed room. 

But on the third day, He arose and immediately went to the disciples. Why? He wanted to strengthen their faith and refocus then on the mission He had called them to. They did not have to cower in fear, regret, or lost hope any more. They now could walk in faith that is empowered by the risen Lord. 

For us today, because He is alive, we are assured we can have a relationship with Him. You see you can not have a relationship with a dead man. He is alive and wants to come to us. He wants to move us from fear to hope, from regret to promise, and from lost mission and to new assignments. Everything Jesus taught and lived for depended upon his death and resurrection. All the promises and prophecies in the Bible depend on the resurrection. The whole history of God’s plan to restore his relationship with man and woman depends on the resurrection. It is not overstating the fact to say the resurrection of Jesus is the single most important event in the history of the world. Your life and mine depends on it. Thank God it is no joke.

Secondly, the resurrection is no joke because through the resurrection we have power to overcome the work of sin. Paul states, And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. Jesus not only overcame death but He overcame the power of sin. Through the cross we have forgiveness of sin. That is an awesome proposition but we need more than forgiveness, we need deliverance. The resurrection not only reminds of this, but it also paves the way for us to conquer sin. The power of sin can be broken because of the resurrection. 

From the beginning of time the lie propagated by the enemy was that we would die. There is truth to that when we live without Christ. In Christ, however, we do not have to face death, at least like others might. Because of the resurrection, all of the trials and injustices of Good Friday were redeemed! All of  the things that bring us death were redeemed by when Christ rose from the dead. The greatest evil ever done by mankind, the created crucifying the creator, has been redeemed to be the greatest good the world will ever know, the resurrection. Jesus is alive and that makes all the difference in this world! No matter what you experience whether pain, sin, mistreatment, or whatever it might be can be redeemed and be made right. The resurrection is no joke.

Thirdly, the resurrection is no joke because it gives us hope for the future. We have eternal life with Christ. Paul stated Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied. This life is not it. To believe that suggests that we are to be pitied. Paul is saying it is so sad to believe that there is nothing beyond our life here. So many believe we live and then we die, but we are promised life beyond our current existence. We have a life beyond this world. 

You see while the miracles of the gospels were powerful, they pale in comparison to what is to come to those who are believers in Christ. At times, we can look at this world today and see that there is not much to get excited about. Think about this. Every person who ever received a miracle from Jesus died as we all will some day. His greatest victory was not the miracles He performed, but His resurrection. Miracles are only temporary, but the resurrection gives permanent hope. He comes for us that we might have life beyond this life. 

Too many in the world today do not have hope. A part of the problem is that many tend to only see things through the lens of the present. Others have lost hope and do not trust Christ. But He can and should be trusted. He promised He would rise and He did just that. It is the resurrection that sets Christianity apart from the world’s religions. We serve and celebrate the risen Lord today because He is alive. This also means that when He makes other promises in His word that He will keep those promises.

One of those promises is that if we turn our hearts and lives to Him, He will accept us and receive us. He will move us from hopelessness, regrets, frustration, to having a life filled with hope and peace. That is His mission and that is the work He accomplishes in each of us. 

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

Copyright © 2018 All Rights Reserved Robert W. Odom

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What Action Will You Take

Peninsula Community Church

What Action Will You Take 

June 25, 2017

Luke 5:17-20 On one of those days, as he was teaching, Pharisees and teachers of the law were sitting there, who had come from every village of Galilee and Judea and from Jerusalem. And the power of the Lord was with him to heal. And behold, some men were bringing on a bed a man who was paralyzed, and they were seeking to bring him in and lay him before Jesus, but finding no way to bring him in, because of the crowd, they went up on the roof and let him down with his bed through the tiles into the midst before Jesus. And when he saw their faith, he said, “Man, your sins are forgiven you.”

This is an amazing story when you think about it. As usual wherever Jesus traveled there was a crowd of people. In this case the crowd had grown so large there was no room to get close to Him. It was in this context that the paralyzed man came to Jesus. He needed a miracle. He was ready to receive but he could not get close enough to get His blessing.

Before we look at some specifics let us take a quick look at the characters in the story. First, we have the crowd who was pressing in so they could be close to Jesus. They were so focused on their needs that they did not see this man and his needs. Their own interests blinded them to the needs of this man. Then we have the friends of the man. They were concerned about their friend who had been sick for such a long time. It is possible that he had lost hope and was at the end. Because of their friendship, they were willing to do whatever it would take to see him healed. Then we have the man who in some ways has a passive role in this story. We do not know why he was paralyzed. We do not know how long he was paralyzed. We just know he had a problem and he needed to get to Jesus. The power of God was moving in Jesus to heal. That is why this man needed Jesus.

Because of the crowd, this small group of men could not get close to Jesus. As a result, they had to make one of three choices. The first choice was that they could give up and go home. After all the crowd was too big. After all there was no way for them to get close enough to Jesus. They could have given up but nothing would have changed. He would remain paralyzed. He would continue to depend on his friends to help him get around for the rest of his life.

How many times do we face problems in life and we find ourselves giving up? Whether we realize it or not it is always easier to give up than it is to move forward and get things accomplished. It is easier to do nothing but doing nothing changes nothing. By giving up there is no healing and no future. There are a number of reasons to give up so easily.  For one, we tend to settle for less than God’s best. Sometimes we settle even for the good rather than His best. Secondly, too many times we are not willing to put in the hard work. We get overwhelmed and rather than pressing in we give up and give into the pressures of life. Thirdly, we can be so distracted by the issues around us that do not even realize that Jesus wants to touch us. Being distracted causes us to go after perceived solutions in a hope that hoping we will find an answer but never do.

The second choice we can make is to hang up. It is so easy to get hung up on what we do not have. We can get hung up on the belief that nothing will ever change or be any different than it is right now. When we get hung up on the problem or situation a couple of things happen. For one, we can become critical and judgmental. We are critical because we see everyone else getting blessed but we are not. We are critical because we think we deserve better but we are not willing to make the changes necessary for permanent change.

Newt Gingrich on Fox News made a valuable statement a few weeks ago. He stated that it is much easier to criticize than to actually do anything. We can get hung up on criticizing the issues and complaining about what is not changing but we never engage in a way to bring real change. Criticism is easy, but change is much harder. For me, I have found this to be so true. I can criticize people, plans, circumstances, and issues around me but fail to step up to the plate to bring any real solutions to the table. I must ask myself, “Am I a part of the problem or am I a part of the solution.” Your answer will determine your outlook.

When we get hung up we can begin to focus on the problem so much that we lose hope and faith. We see the problems but do not see anyway out. The result is that we make mountains out of mole hills when God wants to make our mole hills and for that matter our mountains fall into the sea. I remember in the story of Nehemiah that the Israelites become discouraged because they saw all of the rubble. They were so focused on the obstacles that they missed opportunities to respond to God. They became frozen with fear and anxiety.

While we might chose to give up or hang up we can also choose to stand up and move forward. Notice that in this passage the paralytic man and his four friends chose not to give up or to get hung up. They chose to stand up and make a difference. They saw the problems. They saw the crowd. They saw the obstacles but that did not stop them. The desire to see their friend healed far outweighed the obstacles and the problems. Their faith in Jesus moved them to action. They pushed through all of the obstacles to find another way.

Remember the old adage, when a door is closed a window is opened. The door here was closed but a roof opened. They took their friend upon the roof. They tore the roof open. They let him down into the crowd. Strange idea but that is what they did. They were not willing to settle or give up. They did not run away. They chose not to stand around and criticize but they chose to take action.

They needed faith to do what they were about to do. You see change comes by our faith being put into action. Jesus saw their actions and He responded to the man’s need. The Scripture says that Jesus saw their faith. Here is the principle of Biblical faith. We act God responds. We act and God will meet us in the process. Listen to the words of Jesus! “Man your sins be forgiven.”

This may seem to be a strange statement. The man needed healing not forgiveness. Or at least that is what he thought. The reality is that Jesus often gives us what we need and not just what we want. This man needed healing but he also needed forgiveness. Sometimes God knows that the best way to heal the body is to heal the heart. When Jesus touches us He can and will touch the whole man and not just part. Jesus heals and saves. He delivers us from the physical bondage of illness and sickness and He can deliver us from the power of sin. Sometimes, He does both at the same time. That is certainly what Jesus did here.

So the question is how does this apply to us. The fact is we are all confronted with impossible issues. Most of the issues we face are bigger than us and seem to be more powerful than we are. But when we are confronted with such things we can make a choice about what we will do. Will we give up? Will we get hung up? Or, will we stand up and press in to do the impossible by faith.

I suggest and encourage you to stand up and do the impossible. One of the things that has baffled me about this passage is how did Jesus see their faith. Certainly they pressed through the crowd. Certainly they had broken through the roof. Certainly they did not settle for the status quo. Certainly they took action but I think they did one more thing. When they lowered the paralyzed man through the roof, I believe they let go of the ropes. That was faith in action. They did all they could do and now they left the rest to Jesus. I encourage you to do your part and then let go of the ropes and giving your cares and issues to Jesus. Their part was that they sought Jesus. They drew near to Him. He saw their faith and He answered the man’s need.

The story is told of a mountain climber who set off all by himself to conquer a mountain he had always wanted to conquer. This was not a good idea because the protocol was to always climb with a partner. In a moment of arrogance he took off to make the climb. When he had climbed almost to the summit he slipped and began a rapid descent. All of a sudden the rope reached its end and he snapped to a stop. Because darkness had come, he lost all track of where he was. It was in that moment that he prayed. From the darkness he heard the voice of God. Cut the rope and let go. He argued and refused to cut the rope. The next morning, the park rangers found him. He had frozen to death. They found him tightly holding onto the rope. It was there he died. If he had obeyed the voice of God, he would have lived, as he died hanging only two feet off the ground.

Perhaps, today Jesus is calling you to let go of the rope and by faith give what every you struggle with over to Jesus. It is time to let go. It is time to stand up and push through the obstacles. Do so and Jesus will meet you where you are.

Let’s pray.

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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Engaging in God’s Purpose

February 26, 2017

Pastor Bob Odom

Engaging in God’s Purpose

Nehemiah 2:1-5 – In the month of Nisan, in the twentieth year of King Artaxerxes, when wine was before him, I took up the wine and gave it to the king. Now I had not been sad in his presence. And the king said to me, “Why is your face sad, seeing you are not sick? This is nothing but sadness of the heart.” Then I was very much afraid. I said to the king, “Let the king live forever! Why should not my face be sad, when the city, the place of my fathers’ graves, lies in ruins, and its gates have been destroyed by fire?” Then the king said to me, “What are you requesting?” So I prayed to the God of heaven. And I said to the king, “If it pleases the king, and if your servant has found favor in your sight, that you send me to Judah, to the city of my fathers’ graves, that I may rebuild it.”

Here is the question for us today. When you face difficulties in your life how do you react or respond? This is a critical question because how we respond or react to the trials and problems we face make a big difference. The fact is we all tend to respond in different ways at different times. Sometimes the events and circumstances we face will determine our response. Sometimes the people we are with will determine how we respond. Sometimes we continue to respond in certain ways based on our past experiences and how we have been conditioned or raised to respond.

We will return to this in a moment but before we do that lets peer into this passage so that we can begin to understand what God will teach us and accomplish through us. In Nehemiah 2, we find that Nehemiah had been a patient man and had waited almost four months before finally presenting his case to the king. We also find that in the meantime that Nehemiah had been faithful to carry out the tasks of being the cupbearer. He did not give up on the tasks he had to accomplish. Although the news he had received was dreadful and painful, he did not allow the news to cause him to curl up in a ball and shut out life. He continued live and press forward.

Finally and in the right moment, when the time was right, and it seemed that God had orchestrated everything in Nehemiah’s life it was time to present himself to the king. Life was more than he could bear and it was time to make a move. He could no longer hide his pain or his disappointment. In the moment that the king recognized there was a problem with Nehemiah, the  king responded to Nehemiah’s pain. In that moment Nehemiah had a decision to make in terms of how he would respond. When we were in the hospital this week Michelle read me a portion of a book she was reading. I thought what she read fit so perfectly with this message. The author of the book noted three ways we tend to respond to the events of our lives. We can endure the trial, we can escape the trial, or we can engage the trial.

Let us look at these for a moment. First of all, we can try to endure our trials but in doing so the tendency is that our trials can begin to master us, thus they begin to control us. The result is that we become hard and bitter. The problem with simply enduring the trial is that the trial or the problem we face tends to take charge and begins to rule our life. Left to its own devices the trial can become bigger than life. The result is that our complete attention can be focused on the trial and nothing else. While this is a natural outcome, we must be faithful to move beyond this.

The second way to to deal with the trials in our life is to attempt to escape the trials. The problem with using the escape mechanism is that when we try to escape the problem we often miss what God is doing and what He wants to achieve in our life. We run from the pain and in so doing we miss God’s blessing but we also postpone the difficulty until a later time in our life.

There is a third way and it is the best way to deal with difficulty. How do we do this? We enlist the difficulty or we engage it. When we enlist or engage our trails they begin to work on our behalf and thus they do not master us. We can overcome them and begin to see the benefits of the trial we face. This is critical as every trial we face serves a purpose in the economy of God. It pushes us closer to God, it can reveal sin in us, and it provides a deeper look into our heart.

Two passages come to mind as we consider these thoughts. The first of these is Deuteronomy 8:2-3. And you shall remember the whole way that the Lord your God has led you these forty years in the wilderness, that he might humble you, testing you to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep his commandments or not. And he humbled you and let you hunger and fed you with manna, which you did not know, nor did your fathers know, that he might make you know that man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord. Notice here that God had orchestrated this plan in order that their hearts would be revealed and the truth of who they are was seen. Notice too that in this passage that the people experiencing the difficulty were not even aware of what God was doing in them. Without going through these difficulties, they would have never achieved the lessons required for them to learn: obedience to God, dependence on God for the provision of God, and the power of the grace of God.

The second passage is Romans 8:28. And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. Notice this passage does not say everything will be good but rather that everything will work together for a good outcome even if that is in the eternal perspective. Life is not good but God always is. He never fails. That is the exact point being made in this passage. Too many believe that because we are Christians no bad thing will ever happen to us but that is far from the truth. As we embrace the truth and the reality of our life in God, He can use these issues to form and shape us into what He desires.

My experience this past week with being in the hospital is in fact a perfect example of this. During the day on Sunday I began to experience a severe stomach pain. Through the day the pain began to become greater and more intense. At first I tried to endure the pain and do all of the home remedies that I knew without any relief. I could have chosen to endure the pain but the outcome in my life might have been different. It was beginning to control me. I could also have tried to escape and deny the existence of the pain but it would have mastered me and the results may have had a different ending. Instead I choose to engage the pain and drive myself to the hospital where we now know there was much more going on in my body.

Nehemiah decided to engage and face his problems. He took a chance with the king who could have had him banished and worse yet killed him. Nehemiah chose to engage the problem and meet with the king directly. Remember last we week that Nehemiah had prayed and fasted. He had received as much information as he could about what was going on with his homeland. At that moment he could have tried to just endure and continue to pray and fast but not do anything.  That would have been spiritually accepted but while the spiritual and religious steps we take are important there is a time where we need to engage the problem and seek godly results.

We also find that Nehemiah could have tried to to escape the problem and pretend that was just the way things were going to be and therefore there was no hope for change. He could have run from the trial and would have been justified in doing so. He could have passed the buck and suggested it was someone else’s responsibility rather than his responsibility. So which would you prefer? Your trials mastering you, missing out on what God has to teach you, or accepting the trial and then being positioned for growth and strength. I not sure about you but I prefer the later.

Nehemiah had no idea of what would transpire in the days to come but because he accepted his trial and did not try to run from it, God used him and positioned him to accomplish His will. Nehemiah could have been “spiritual” and stayed in his room to pray and fast but he engaged. After he prayed and fasted he realized that he needed to do his part and that is just what he did and that is what we must do. We need to engage and get in the game so that we achieve God’s highest will for our lives.

So what did Nehemiah do? First of all, he did not try to hide his problem. He was honest about his situation. He did not overvalue the problem but he certainly did not underestimate the problem either. Notice that Nehemiah was willing to share his concerns directly with the king. This is critical because he took his need to the one earthly person that could do something about the problem. He did not talk with a lot people. He did not mumble and grumble. He did not use negative  self talk to get himself discouraged. Sometimes we can engage with everyone but the one person that can help us resolve the issues of life. As a result of the relationship Nehemiah had with the king, he engaged the king and thus the king realized there was a problem. Even then Nehemiah had a decision to make. How much would he share? How honest would he be?

This leads us to the second thing that Nehemiah did. Nehemiah dealt with his fear. Fear is a natural outcome when we face trials and difficulties in our life. Fear is a God given emotion that can be taken to the extreme and cause us to shut down, run, or hide. Fear can paralyze us.   But fear can also cause us to get a head of God and we can sometimes even circumvent what God is doing in us as a result. Nehemiah however faced his fears. Let me ask you two questions as we close this morning. First, what are you afraid of? And secondly, what could you accomplish if you did not have that fear any more? God never intended for fear to control us or cause us to be bound by the unknown. Nehemiah was gripped with fear but he did not allow fear to control him. He pressed through his fear and spoke truth to the king and as we know by history and the word that Nehemiah cam through in a big way and had compassion.

As we close would you take a moment focus your attention on the video we will play in second. So much of our failure comes in the form of fear. But that was never God’s intention. But we know who stands with us. He is God and He is always by our side. He overcomes our fear and the closer we get to him the more fear will subside. This video is Whom Shall I Fear by Chris Tomlin.

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

Copyright © 2017 All Rights Reserved Robert W. Odom

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By Faith: God Provides

Peninsula Community Church 

By Faith: God Provides

October 30, 2016

Hebrews 11:17-20 By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac, and he who had received the promises was in the act of offering up his only son, of whom it was said, “Through Isaac shall your offspring be named.” He considered that God was able even to raise him from the dead, from which, figuratively speaking, he did receive him back. By faith Isaac invoked future blessings on Jacob and Esau. By faith Jacob, when dying, blessed each of the sons of Joseph, bowing in worship over the head of his staff. By faith Joseph, at the end of his life, made mention of the exodus of the Israelites and gave directions concerning his bones.

As we continue our journey through the Hall of Fame of Faith we will turn our attention back to Abraham and a story that seems to be filled with major contradictions. We will look at these in a moment. While it is true there appears to be a series of contradictions, we also see that this is a story of faith and trust like no other.

In our earlier discussions, you may remember that Abraham had been called out of his homeland to go to a new place that God would reveal to him only as he was obedient to God. In other words God would let him know when he arrived at the destination (Genesis 12). In the story, we find that Abraham obeyed by faith and he found the place God wanted him to abide. In the process, God promised Abraham that he would be the father of many nations. He would be progenitor of what was to come. As we continue the story, we find that he and Sarah tried to take things into their own hands and he had a son with Hagar. This never worked out the way he thought and he had to move Hagar and Ishmael to the desert.

Here is what I love about the story of Abraham. He was a man of faith but he was not a perfect man. He had his foibles and his failures. Throughout his life he passed many of life’s tests and yet he failed so many others. We might be critical of Abraham but before we become too critical of him if we are honest we do the same thing. We pass some of the tests of life with flying colors while we fail at some of the others. In fact, at times I can be amazed at what tests I pass and which ones I fail. In the story before us today, we see a major test that Abraham was given and how he passed it with flying colors.

As I noted before, this story is filled with several contradictions. In a recent message by Pastor Tony Evans, he noted five contradictions in this story. First, he noted that theologically God had made a promise to Abraham but now Abraham was being asked to kill the promise that was given to him. For Abraham this was a major contradiction. Secondly, from a Biblical standpoint God had condemned murder in Genesis 9:5-6. Now God is asking Abraham to do the very thing that is condemned by God. On one hand God is calling for Abraham’s obedience and yet on the other hand he is being asked to break God’s command. Emotionally, Abraham faced a huge contradiction. He loved his son, his only son, but he wanted to please God and honor God with his whole life. Abraham was having to make a choice about giving up what he loved and his obedience to God. Can you imagine the turmoil that evidenced in Abraham’s heart.

Relationally, we see the contradiction of his love for Sarah and the struggle he would have in explaining all of this to her. Perhaps that is why he arose early in the morning. By leaving early he would not have to confront her with his mission. And then finally, we see a spiritual contradiction. Do you see it? He is being asked to sacrifice his son and yet at the same time he was being called to worship God. This story begs the question of how can we be obedient to God, and yet worship Him with a broken heart. These were the issues Abraham was being confronted with and yet he passed the test.

Think about this for a moment, God the creator of the heavens and the earth, the one who gave Abraham the promise of a son now has him positioned to take his son’s life. What turmoil and what pain he must of felt. All at once he was experiencing love, pain, confusion and so much more but instead of rejecting God we see a man who had faith that God would provide. How do I know that? Let’s look at three key passages that express the heart of Abraham.

First of all, Abraham tells his servants to stay below and that he and Isaac would go up the mountain to make a sacrifice to God. Once the sacrifice was complete they would return. Notice he did not say I will be back but instead he made the proclamation that “we will be back.” Here are his exact words. Then Abraham said to his young men, “Stay here with the donkey; I and the boy will go over there and worship and come again to you” (Genesis 22:5). There was a confident faith expressed here. He knew that God would fulfill His promise. He trusted God and he knew that God would provide even against all odds.

It is noteworthy that Abraham prepared for the sacrifice. He prepared the wood. He brought the rope. He brought everything he needed for the sacrifice and yet there was an assurance in his heart that God would provide an appropriate sacrifice. That is why he could proclaim that we are going up the mountain. I am going to be obedient to God and we will come down the mountain together.

There is a second reason that I believe that he had a great faith in God’s ability to fulfill His word and keep His promise. Listen to what the writer of Hebrews had to say. He considered that God was able even to raise him from the dead, from which, figuratively speaking, he did receive him back (Hebrews 11:19). By faith, Abraham knew that even if the worst case scenario was to happen and he followed through with the offering of his son upon the altar, he knew that God had the power to raise him up again. He had a confidence in almighty God that He would keep His word and His promise to make him a father of many nations.

This vaguely sounds like the echo of Job’s heart when he faced the loss of everything that mattered in his life. Do you recall what Job proclaimed in Job 13:15? Here are Job’s words. Though he slay me, I will hope in him; yet I will argue my ways to his face. Listen to the faith of Job. Though God were to take everything from him, even his life, he vowed to serve God and to keep Him first in his life. He was saying that no matter what happens he would trust God and would hope in His promise.

As I think about this I am not so sure that I would have had such confidence in God. I think I would have been the one who would have been trying to find another way to help God out. After all, this could not be God’s will. Certainly, God must not know what He is talking about. I wonder if we are honest with ourselves, how many times do we react to the commands and promises of God that way. Through His written word and those strong impressions of the heart we know the voice of God, but we try to help God out because He certainly cannot know or mean what He is saying. I am so grateful that God does not put us to that kind of test everyday. I am so glad that God is patient with us when we do not believe Him or have faith in Him.

Abraham had an incredible faith. He obeyed. In his obedience he passed this major exam. The exam was a measure of his heart and the capacity of his heart to trust God to provide an appropriate sacrifice. One of things that helped Abraham pass the test is that he was more in love with God than he was the promise of God. That is the real test. The big question for us today is will we be more in love with God or more in love with what God does for us? It is so easy for us to slide into this kind of mentality. After all God gives and does so much for us that we could easily take Him for granted. We can easily become more in love with what He does than who He is.

And then thirdly, we have the words of Jesus in John 8:56. This is an amazing statement by Jesus but it helps us understand Abraham’s heart and mindset. Jesus said this. Your father Abraham rejoiced that he would see my day. He saw it and was glad.” Do you get what this passage is saying? Abraham with confidence looked across the generations and through the years to see the ultimate fulfillment of God’s plan. God’s plan all along was to provide a Savior that would redeem the world and would redeem mankind. Abraham knew in his heart that he had a role to play in that process.

Through the eyes of faith Abraham looked over the horizon of history yet to be written to see the coming Messiah. He focused on the coming Christ. Here is the beauty of this. In essence, it was this forward thinking of faith that kept Abraham focused on Christ and keep him in an obedient stance before God. In many ways the story of Abraham and Isaac resembled the story of Christ. Jesus was the only son of God who was sacrificed upon the cross for our sins. It was Jesus who became the substitute for our sin. It is also amazing that this story took place on Mount Moriah which was only a few yards from Golgotha where Christ died.

Think about it if you will. Later in the book of Hebrews, the writer admonishes us with these words in Hebrews 12:1-2. Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. Notice that the challenge here is for us to stay focused on Christ. The difference for us is that we have the historical record upon which we can base our faith but Abraham based his faith on the unknown and yet to be.

So let me ask you today? How is your faith? When difficulty comes into your life, what do you focus on? Where do you put your faith and confidence? Isaiah had a revelation of this truth in Isaiah 26:3 You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you. Trust in the Lord forever, for the Lord God is an everlasting rock. Do you hear it? He gives peace to those who focus on God. Abraham had that peace. He had that confidence. His focus was on the future hope of the coming Messiah.

So what does all of this mean for us today? It means that we too can have a confidence in the risen Savior, Jesus Christ. We can focus on Him knowing that He will provide all we need to survive the tests of our lives. We can have a confidence that even if God takes the promise from us that He will cause it to rise again in greater and more powerful ways. So I do not know what you are facing. I do not know what you need faith for today. But I know this God will provide a means to get through the difficulty and He will provide a means where we will survive the test. He is Jehovah Jireh, the God that provides. If we trust Him, He will provide a sacrifice. He will provide the answers we need. We focus, He answers!

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

Copyright © 2016 All Rights Reserved Robert W. Odom

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