Tag Archives: God’s will

Grace and Action

Peninsula Community Church 

Grace and Action 

September 16, 2018 

2 Peter 3:17-18 You therefore, beloved, knowing this beforehand, take care that you are not carried away with the error of lawless people and lose your own stability. But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be the glory both now and to the day of eternity. Amen.

This morning we are on our third installment of our series, Amazing Grace. We have looked at grace and truth and we have looked at grace and mercy. This week we will take a bit of a different track as we will explore our part in grace. While grace is a free gift, we also recognize that we have a role to play in accepting His grace and His mercy. We have a role to play in the stewardship of His grace and what we do with His grace makes all of the difference. 

John Piper has stated After “Jesus” there is no sweeter word in all the Bible than “grace.” As Dr. Widen, a member of John’s church, use to say, It’s the greatest unused resource in all the world. It is the wealth of God’s kindness; the riches of his mercy; the soothing ointment of his forgiveness; the free and undeserved, but lavishly offered hope of eternal life. Grace is what we crave when we are guilt-laden. Grace is what we must have when we come to die. Grace is our only ray of hope when the future darkens over with storm clouds of fear. How true and how powerful that is. 

In considering this study, we must acknowledge that we can do nothing to earn God’s favor or increase His love for us. Too often, we are deceived into thinking that we have to earn God’s favor, and we can believe that we have to work extremely hard for Him to love us more or even consider loving us. This is such a issue and it is an issue that I am most familiar with. For years I worked hard in an attempt to get God to love me more. I felt that if I did not work hard enough, He would reject me and stop loving me as His child. How relieved I was when my understanding of God’s grace changed my mind, and enveloped my heart with the confidence that He loves me, and accepts me no matter what. The frustration and anxiety of trying to please God was diminished and I was freed up to actually accomplish more for His Kingdom. 

While it is true that we cannot earn God’s favor, nor can we work harder to get Him to love us more, there are some steps we need to take. The free gift of His grace must be stewarded or managed in order for us to maximize the gift we receive. Through stewardship, we recognize that we do not own anything, but we have been blessed to receive great gifts from God. That is why stewardship is so incredibly important. We must steward our finances, our possessions, our relationships, our employment, and we must steward the gifts God has given us.  

In Matthew 25, we have the parable of the talents. A landowner headed out on a journey. He entrusted his servants with the talents in order to manage the farm was he was gone. The first sergeant took his five talents and was able to double them. The one with the two talents did the same. Unfortunately the one with one talent went and hid it. When questioned he stated that he did so because he was afraid. The landowner responded by taking the talent from him and giving it to him who has the ten talents. What is the lesson here? We must steward what we have been given or else we can lose it. Now understand we cannot lose God’s grace but we can begin to minimize it in our life to the degree that it no longer guides and directs our steps. We can ignore God’s grace and that has sad consequences and difficult outcomes. 

So how do we steward or manage grace? In our passage today, we see that one way to steward His grace is by growing in the grace He has given us. In other words, grace is not a passive gift. It is active in the sense that we need to recognize the value and power of grace. When that happens, we will be moved to action. The question for us is what motivates us as stewards of grace. Well, we do not act on grace to gain salvation. It is a free gift. We do not act on grace to gain His love. He gives His love freely and graciously. We do not act on grace for His acceptance. He already accepts us because He sent His son into the world to die for us. All of these things are already set in motion because they are free gifts freely given.

With that said, in our passage today, we find that we are exhorted to grow in grace. So, how do we do that? I would suggest four things we can do to steward and grow in the grace God has given us. First, I would suggest to you that we need to work out our own salvation with fear and trembling. In Philippians 2:12-13 Paul states Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.

In this passage, I would propose to you that we must make our salvation our own. We must receive His grace as the gift it is . Notice two aspects of this passage. First, Paul exhorts us to work out our own salvation with fear and trembling. This relates to the seriousness and necessity of this action. We are exhorted to work through the problems that keep us from understanding His grace. We must deal with the bondages and shortcomings of our life to grow toward a state of healthiness and understanding of His grace. 

This brings us to the second part of this passage. It is God who works in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure. This is important because we often feel we do not deserve grace. We reject His grace, because we somehow feel there is too much water under the bridge for God to accept us. We can also believe we are too defective and too broken to be healed. 

I love this passage because we see that He works in us, because it is His will to do so. In fact, it brings God pleasure to work in us. Did you catch that? It is His will to work in us. It brings Him pleasure. Wow! What grace that is! Notice too that this passage gives us the balance between grace and our actions. We are called to work out salvation, but it is His work in us that makes it happen. We do and He will. He is willing and ready, but we must act. We cannot be passive. 

Secondly, in 1 Timothy 4:7-8 we find that Paul exhorts us to train ourselves for godliness. Listen to his words. Have nothing to do with irreverent, silly myths. Rather train yourself for godliness; for while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come. The word here for trained is an athletic term. Just as those who participated in the Grecian games had to prepare themselves so also, we must actively train ourselves for godliness. This means you will not always feel like it. You may be too tired, or you may be disinterested, but train anyway because there is a goal in mind. It is a goal of godliness and that is a most worthy goal. 

While we receive God’s righteousness and godliness as a gift of grace, we must train ourselves in the understanding of that grace. Our training in godliness is not a passive experience but one where we must be engaged in order to grow and develop a greater understanding of who He is. One who is training for an athletic event does not sit in their recliner and eat potato chips all day. No, they are up early and working out. They are eating healthy. They are resting appropriately. They are training their body and getting ready to participate in the event they are training for. 

When it comes to godliness our training includes personal Bible study and growth. I would suggest that we need to take advantage of the opportunities that are provided for us to grow. So, let me be a bit shameless and do a promo for the studies we have going here at PCC. We have the Ladies Thursday Morning Bible Study. We have the Ladies Thursday night BSF Bible study. We have the Tuesday night Bible study for ladies. We have the Tuesday night Bible Study for men. We have Sunday School for everyone. We have Sunday worship. We have one our Life Groups launching this Saturday with more to come. Coming in October we will have the Grief Share Group meeting at IRSC. All of these provide opportunities for growth and personal development. No one has an excuse for not growing in their faith. All of these events are opportunities for personal growth, but it also a time for fellowship and outreach. 

That leads us to a third vital point. Do not stop gathering together. And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near (Hebrews 10:24-25). We need one another and it is in the assembling of ourselves together that we can and should experience God’s grace. As we work with one another, we have the opportunity to experience grace and give grace. Grace is best worked out through our interaction with one another. The temptation most often is for us to isolate and hide, but in isolation we are more susceptible to defeat and depression. We need one another! We need encouragement! 

Finally, I will end where we began. We are to grow in the grace and the knowledge of God. As we close let me summarize these keys to growth. This list is not exclusive, but I believe it is the priorities we need to seek. First, we grow in grace through worship and prayer. Through prayer and worship we experience a greater understanding of who God is and all that God has for us. Second, we grow through His word. Read the Bible and study the Bible for yourself. It is God’s manual for life to accomplish He desires. And finally, we must continue in fellowship. Do not isolate. While it is a gift of grace, when we isolate, we fail to share that grace with others. 

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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Small Steps – Big Dividends

Peninsula Community Church 

Small Steps Big Dividends

October 1, 2017

Proverbs 16:9 The heart of man plans his way, but the LORD establishes his steps.

Have you ever found that following the will of God can be confusing, frustrating, and seemingly unknowable? How many times are we frustrated with the knowing the will of God because we do not get the whole plan or purpose of God at one time? If you are like me, I want to know the beginning, the middle, and the end of what God is doing. To be obedient to His will, I tend to want to have all of my ducks in a row. But, the fact is, most often when obeying God, I do not have the whole story or the whole plan. The result is that sometimes I can be confused and frustrated. This is even more confusing because there are times where He has detailed what He wanted but that is a rare occasion. So I have to obey what I know. I must take the small steps I know in order to move toward the destination of God’s purposes.

With that in mind by using our text as a baseline, we can make a couple of observations about making decisions that result in obedience to God’s will. Note the simplicity and profoundness of this statement. We make plans in our heart, but God directs our steps. As confirmed by the words of Solomon, we make plans in our heart. The fact is we all have an idea or a vision of what could be or at least of what we hope could be. You see without plans, hopes, and dreams we live a miserable life. In fact, the Bible says that without a vision, the people perish (Proverbs 29:18). To prevent perishing, we must have the right kind of vision and the right kind of goals. We must have vision, but it must be God’s vision. We must have hope for something better, but it must be a hope in God and who He is as our creator.

Notice that Solomon addresses the heart first. We all make decisions in the heart. Decisions in the heart can be good, but they can also be nonproductive. The reason for this is that the heart is the seat of our emotions. While we make decisions from the heart there is a problem. Our heart is not always the best source for making decisions because as Jeremiah says our heart is deceitful (Jeremiah 17:9). The heart by itself is not a good decision maker.

Let me ask you a question. How many times have you made an emotional decision that did not work as well as you would like or you thought it would? How many times have we made decisions based on the emotion of the heart which resulted in more problems than was resolved. Let me illustrate. If I am angry at someone, I can make choices in that moment that may not be aligned with God’s will. I can be convinced that I am doing the right thing. I can even convince myself that it is God’s will. Unfortunately, our emotions can affect our decisions and can affect us in a way that derail what God is trying to do in our life and in the life of others. We must understand that our emotions, by themselves, are a poor guide to decision making. Today, much of the craziness in our society is a direct result of misplaced emotions.

Too often we hear people say “follow your heart” but that can be bad advice when we depend only upon an emotional erratic deceptive heart as a resource for decision making. Remember Jesus words. “Where your treasure is, there your heart will be” (Matthew 6:21 & Luke 12:34). You see it is so easy for us to follow the emotions of the heart that can be deceptive and can lead us to the wrong destination. If our treasure is misplaced or our values are misguided this can lead us to make bad decisions that do not honor God’s purposes for us. We can easily be emotionally driven to make decisions which down the road do not have an eternal positive affect.

A number of years ago Michelle and I had taken a trip to upstate New York with friends of ours to look at some property. The plans were to build chalets on the property which was near some of the beautiful ski resorts in the Adirondack mountains. The salesman was quite convincing and he began to tug on our emotional heart strings to buy this property and all the advantages that would come with the property. He was really convincing and almost had us. Emotionally, we were about to give in, but we had promised each other that before we made a major financial decision we would spend 24 hours considering the purchase. We are so glad that we took that action. As we considered the purchase, we prayed and looked at all of our options. After doing so, we made the decision not to purchase the property. We are so glad we did because the whole project went bankrupt and the property was devalued to the degree that no one was able to recover their cost. If we had made the decision solely on our emotions, which we were close to doing, we would have lost our investment because we would not have been able to sell the property. In fact, we understand that the property sat there for years and those who made an investment lost it all.

Now don’t get me wrong, plans born of the heart are not altogether wrong, but it is wrong when that is the only motivation or factor used to determine God’s will. When the heart is the only motivating factor, we can get ourselves in trouble. In fact, Solomon recognized there were plans made in the heart, but those plans must be submitted to God, who will direct our steps to fulfill His purposes. We make plans in the heart, but He directs our steps.

That brings us to the second part of this passage. God directs our steps. Remember we stated that so often we do not always get the full benefit of knowing what God wants us to do. The problem is that too often we have a great vision, but we get frustrated when the details of the vision are not revealed or accomplished immediately. Over the last couple of weeks, our guys have been studying the book “Greater.” One of the points Steve makes in the book is that we need to have a large vision and a greater view of what God wants for us, but we must take small steps to see God’s will accomplished.

So how does this idea of taking small steps work. Because He directs our steps the first step we must take is to pray. To ascertain God’s will, the best first step for us is to pray. Sometimes, if we are not careful, we can minimize this vital step. Without prayer, we can miss even the most simple steps that can lead to obedience. Without prayer, our focus can be misguided. Through prayer, we will have God’s direction to what steps we can and should take. I can tell you from a personal experience that when you pray God will direct your steps, He will change your mind, He will redirect your attitudes, and refocus your thoughts.

Beyond prayer, fulfilling God’s will always begins with small steps of obedience. We step where we know to step. We step where God shows us. As we take the small, known steps of obedience, we will see God begin to unfold and reveal His ultimate purpose. We must understand that God wants us to dream big and have a large vision of what He can do in us. But every dream and vision, no matter how large, must begin with smaller steps.

Perhaps you have a vision of being a better student of God’s word. How much are you reading now? Are you reading at all? Let’s say that you are not reading the word at all, but you know that it is critical that you read the word and allow the word to direct you. So if you are not reading at all, take a small step and begin reading for 5 minutes. Perhaps you want to become a faithful giver/tither which is an act of obedience to God. Perhaps, financially it scares you to start with 10%. So why not start with a small step and give 5%, and then grow your giving to 10% or more. We know that tithing is a biblical principle and one that we are called to do. So start somewhere.

Do you have a relationship where you need to see healing and restoration? Perhaps the small step you can take is to write a letter that is bathed in pray, love, and grace so that you express your need and issue in love. Perhaps a step you can take is to forgive the other person that has wounded you before they move toward you in forgiveness. Perhaps God has called to lead a ministry or teach a class. Perhaps the small step you can take is to talk with people to see if there is an interest in your subject or the ministry you want to start. Perhaps the small step is to sit in on current classes or assist someone with teaching a class. Small steps.

Small steps centered in God’s will brings huge dividends. We may not know the full extent of what God is calling us to, but we can be obedient to take the small steps that point us in the direction of God’s will, and brings us closer to the fulfillment of His plan. We make plans in our hearts, but God direct our steps. So, start somewhere. Do what you know to do that honors God. Sometimes God will take our small steps and do something amazing, something that is beyond our imagination or belief. That is why things do not always turn out the way we think when we obey God.

A number of years ago I was asked if I would visit a family member of someone in our church. I agreed to do so and headed off to the hospital. Small steps. I had no clue how this would turn out. I stopped at the information desk. Small step. I went to the room and met with the individual. Small steps. I spent several minutes with him. Small step. During the conversation we spoke about the need for him to accept Christ. Small step. By the end of our conversation we prayed and he accepted Christ as his personal savior. Small steps, but huge dividends for eternity. I wish that was the end of the story but it is not. As I left his room, I was on cloud nine. As I turned the corner, I ran into the family who was there to visit their uncle. I noticed however that they were headed in the opposite direction from where I just had been. I asked them what they were doing and they said they were going to visit their uncle, but I said his room was in the opposite direction. To my amazement the information desk had given me the wrong room number because they had two patients with the same first and last name. You see I made plans. I took some small steps. But, God directed my steps and that day a man who I did not know came to Christ and eternity was impacted.

So what about you? What are some of the small steps you need to take? Small steps, big dividends. Maybe you don’t know what to do. Begin with prayer. Ask God to give you a large vision but then pray for God to direct your individual steps. If we will, He will.

As we close, I ask that you take a piece of paper and do this. Write a couple of words that would define what you need or where you believe God is calling you. Then under that write down one or two small steps you can take now in obedience to God.

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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The Perfect Storm

Several years ago I was fishing with a friend of mine that owned a party boat out of Long Island. Captain Carl had called me the night before because he was taking the boat on an ocean trip, a trip he only took once or twice a year. The trip would consist of fishing the wrecks out in the Atlantic Ocean. As we left the docks that day, the weather was absolutely beautiful. It was hot but being on the boat we had a wind that was blowing that kept us cool, plus I was able to ride in the wheel house where there was air conditioning.

After a great day of fishing, (I had caught 20 -30 black fish and sea bass) Carl called for me to come to the wheel house. As I climbed the stairs to meet up with Carl, I could hear excessive chatter on the boat’s two-way radio. What Carl began to explain is that a storm had been brewing over the ocean and was moving up the coast at a far greater speed than anyone had imagined. The result was that we had to stop fishing and begin the race back to the dock.

As we neared the inlet into the sound, the waves were already 5 to 6 feet high which meant that the waves within the narrow inlet were more than 10 feet high. The inlet on a good day was a difficult one to navigate. We now had to shoot the gap with gale force winds and waves that were beginning to crash over the sides of the boat. I have to tell I was a bit frightened actually a lot frightened. All Carl would say to me is “please pray.”

In the midst of the storm, I watched as this seasoned captain navigated through the treacherous inlet. After we made it through, he revealed his secret to me. He had invested in very expensive radar and GPS equipment for just such a time as this. He did not take his eyes off of the equipment as he was navigating through the inlet. As a result, we safely made it through the storm.

As I later reflected on the day, I thought about the storms we face in our lives. Sometimes it seems that they last forever and others seem to come and go. Others blow in unexpectedly and leave just as quickly. As Christians, it is critical that we keep our eyes fixed on the One that can and will help navigate us through the storms of life.

The writer of Proverbs recognized this need when he wrote the passage that most of us can quote from memory. He said “Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths. Be not wise in your own eyes; fear the LORD, and turn away from evil. It will be healing to your flesh and refreshment to your bones.” Proverbs 3:5-9 (ESV)

Too many times, I tend to lean upon “my” abilities and on “my” experience to get me through life’s issues but when I do this I often crash against the rocks. However, when I stay focused on God and trust Him to lead me, He directs my steps even when I don’t understand what is going on. My challenge to you today is to stay focused on God and allow Him to direct your steps. You may not know where He is leading or what He is doing in the moment but stay focused and keep leaning and you will be amazed at what God does. He has a plan and He will see it fulfilled because He is God.

Things to consider:

Are you facing storms in your life right now? If so, what are you focusing on to get you through the storm? Is it God and His Word or is there something else?

Why do you think it is so hard to trust God when the storms of life blow in?

Can you share a time when you had a storm blow in and how you dealt with that storm?

What scripture passage do you hold onto when you are faced with a storm?

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God’s Detours Brings About His Purposes

When Michelle and I lived in NY, I will never forget the day there was an accident that blocked the roadway on which I was traveling. Because the accident blocked the entire road the police department was detouring traffic from the roadway to one of the side streets. However, the community they were detouring the traffic into had only one entrance and one exit. You guessed it…. we entered and exited at the same point. The problem of course is that the traffic inside the community began to backup until there was no longer any room for another car. So, we sat on this side street in this unknown community for more than an hour waiting for the accident to be cleaned up. I can now look back and laugh but not so on that day.

In life, we are often faced with what appears to be detours. We are going along in life and suddenly we find that we have to change course. We don’t want to change course but we must. The detours of life could be almost anything. It might the doctor’s report that suddenly and radically changes our life forever. It could be unexpected financial loss that comes from a job loss or forced retirement. The detour may come in the form of a death of loved one or spouse. It could be a change of occupation or location of work. Or, it could be the transition of a pastor that was have loved and admired. Whatever the issue, life as you know it will never be the same as a result of the detour thrown at you.

In 1 Samuel 22, we see the story of David who was on the run from Saul. David had been anointed by Samuel to be the King of Israel. He was anointed king but now he is on the run. But wait, it wasn’t supposed to happen this way. He was suppose to be anointed King and Saul was to step down so that David could take the throne and begin his reign as king. But a different story is unfolding. It is a story that is hard to understand especially since God had personally selected David as the King. But, as always God has a better plan. He wanted to equip David in a way that he had not been equipped.

Instead of becoming king, David had to depart from Jerusalem and from there he escaped to the cave of Adullam. No kingdom just a cave. No throne just a rock. David experienced a detour in his life. While he was on the way to being king he landed in a cave alone and without anyone around him. He was chosen by God but His reign was yet to be.

But all is not lost. God had a plan as David had been enrolled in the school of leadership and trust. David just did not know it yet. You see God used the detour to change David’s life and to prepare him for his time on the throne. When experiencing God’s detour(s) we must realize that God brings change into our lives not to destroy us but to reroute us so that we end up where God wants us to be all along. In the cave, David feels worthless, useless, mistreated, and misunderstood but he was right where he was supposed to be. God designed this experience so that David would become a different kind of King.

It was here that God gave David a new assignment. In the detour, David was to reach those he would have never reached otherwise. In 1Samuel 22:2 we see that …everyone who was in distress, and everyone who was in debt, and everyone who was bitter in soul, gathered to him. And he became captain over them. And there were with him about four hundred men. Look at who God sent his way. He sent those who were in distress or as the Hebrew word suggests those under pressure. Others were in debt. They could not pay their bills. And he sent those to David who were discontented. They had bitterness in their souls because they had been wronged and mistreated. What a crew God sent to David, a worn out depressed and motley group. David’s assignment was to train a new army that would be loyal to him. And he did. Had he never experienced the detour he would not have experienced this new adventure and this new call from God.

For some, it may seem that God has us on a detour but, the fact is, God has us right where he wants us. Seasons of transition and God directed detours are an opportunity for us to grow if we understand that God is at work. We will be able to more clearly define who we are and what we are to be about as an individual. It is often in the detours of life that we can reach those who have not been reached thus far. So while it seems we are on a detour, God is at work. Trust in Him and wait on Him for in the appointed time God will reveal His purpose.

Questions to consider

What detours are you experiencing?

Do you see the hand of God in the detour?

What do you see God doing in the detour that is preparing you for a mission that is beyond yourself?

Who is God putting in your life in this time of detour that you can minister to?

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