Tag Archives: Grace

The Power of Blessing

Peninsula Community Church 

The Power of Blessing

September 10, 2017

Numbers 6:22-26 The Lord spoke to Moses, saying, “Speak to Aaron and his sons, saying, Thus you shall bless the people of Israel: you shall say to them, The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you; the Lord lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace.

I love this passage. It reminds me that we are blessed by our Heavenly Father. Today, we are here to pray a prayer of blessing for our children, their teachers, and those who impact their life. Before we do that, it behooves us to understand how blessed we are through God’s grace. The truth is, we can only bless others when we recognize how blessed we are as people of God.

In this passage, we understand just a bit about that blessing. Time does not allow us to give the time to this that it truly requires. So our focus will be on this passage as it shows us the blessing of God to Israel and subsequently to us as His people. What we find here is that Moses was commanded by God to have Aaron speak a blessing over the people. Culturally and historically these words were not just spoken but were lived out and manifested in their lives. In Moses’ day, a word of blessing was worth so much more than we can imagine. It was in fact worth more than land or money in many cases. These were not empty words but were also prophetic words. So let us take a moment and look at the words spoken by Aaron as directed by Moses through the inspiration of God.

First, Aaron was to proclaim “The Lord bless you and keep you.” As we have noted already, we are a blessed people. We have been given so much that we would be unwise to ignore or fail to acknowledge that truth. Here is a fact that you can take to the bank. God, wants to bless you. He wants to give you good and gracious gifts, and in fact, He already has given great gifts (James 1:17, 2 Peter 1:3-4). The problem, too often, is that we squander the gifts we have been given. It is sad that we have squandered so many of the blessings that God has bestowed upon us.

One reason for this is that we have pushed God out of the picture and have tried to live life on our own. But the fact is He, God, is the source of our blessings. He is the originator, the giver, and the keeper of our blessing. The word, to bless. literally means “to kneel in order to serve.” We see this manifested in Jesus when on the night of the last supper, He took a towel and washed the disciples’ feet (John 13:4-5). The blessing of God is in fact the goodness of God in action, by which a supply of His grace pours down to us from His good favor (Romans 3:24, 2 Corinthians 9:8, Ephesians 1:7, 2:8). Just think of the fact that He sent His son to give us eternal life (John 3:16). The result of His blessing is that we are preserved, protected, and kept for His purposes.

Secondly, Aaron proclaims “the Lord make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you.” In the first part of the blessing we find that He will bless us and will keep us. It is here that we see the manifestation of the favor and grace of God. We are blessed because we get to experience the grace of God. We are blessed to know that through forgiveness and His gift of grace that we do not always get what we deserve. What a blessing?

Listen to the words of Moses and his personal encounter with God. The LORD passed before him and proclaimed, “The LORD, the LORD, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, but who will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children and the children’s children, to the third and the fourth generation” (Exodus 34:6-7). He is a gracious God. He is a patient God. We are blessed by His grace.

Thirdly, Aaron proclaims “the Lord lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace.” The end result of God’s blessing is that it brings peace. Peace is that inner strength that comes in the midst of a storm. Peace is that settledness that comes as a result of a trust in one who is able to keep us, show us His grace, and empower us with peace. Through the blessing of God we get to experience His protection, His grace, and His peace. Wow! But as His people, we are not to just receive these blessings, we are to share this hope and life with others. We are truly blessed, but we are called to share this blessing with others. The great Winston Churchill once said “We make a living by what we get, we make a life by what we give.”

With that in mind let me give you a couple of ways that we can bless others today. John Trent and the late Gary Smalley have studied this idea of blessing and have produced five common means by which we can bless others. Let me share these with you. First, the blessing requires appropriate meaningful touch. In the Old Testament, before a word was spoken, there was the laying on of hands. There was a hug or other meaningful touch. We say meaningful because some are raised today as I was. The only touch received is one that is done in anger. It is a slap, a push, or an act of abuse, and is certainly not an encouraging touch. Meaningful touch is powerful in that it conveys in non-verbal ways that we love and affirm others. Meaningful touch in fact prepares others for our words.

Research affirms the many benefits of touch. Several studies conducted indicate the improvements in sleep and digestion among infants who are massaged regularly. Healthy touch releases endorphins such as the bonding hormone oxytocin and can calm the aggressive behavior of adolescents. Holding hands or giving and receiving hugs on a regular basis can lower blood pressure and calm a racing heartbeat. “Touch is without a doubt one of the most, if not the most powerful means of communication we have available to us as human beings” says James Smith, professional Christian counselor. “We may speak, express ourselves through words, tone and the volume of our voice, or body language, however nothing comes close to touch.”

Second, we have the spoken message or word. Words are important and what we communicate through our words is critical. Biblically, through the spoken word a child was not left to “fill in the blanks.” They did not have to wonder whether they were valuable to a parent or grandparent. The goal of the spoken word has always been to place unconditional love and acceptance into the heart of a child or loved one. By the way, it is never too late to do this for our children, no matter how old they are.

You see, life and death are in our words. we can build up or we can destroy in a matter of minutes (Deuteronomy 30:14-19; Proverbs 15:4, 18:21). There is power and death in our tongue. We can give life or death through our words. So, choose your words wisely. How many stories have you heard of people who have given up and have lived with brokenness because of the words spoken into their lives? It is not by chance that the Bible tells us that Jesus became the Word (John 1:1, 14). He is the living embodiment of the Word that was spoken and revealed to us. He attached value to His word by making it personal.

Third, we attach high value to others. The word “blessing,” itself, carries the idea that the person you are blessing is of incredible worth and value, even if they are an imperfect person. In short, you are helping others get the picture that you see things in their life that make them special, useful, and of great value. By our words and our actions we are adding value to the people we encounter.

There is so much in society that beats us down. There is so much that seeks to destroy our value. Our personal value is being threatened by a media that sets a standard of what one’s value should look like. Too often today our value is based on our Facebook posts, Twitter accounts, Snap Chat, and other media outlets. Our value is weakened through comparison and trying to achieve what others think we should be. If we do not give value, our children, our families, and our friends will get their value somewhere and it may not be the value we admire, necessarily.

Fourth, we show that each child or person has a special future. With our touch, with our words that attach high value, come a response in a child or loved one’s heart that can be nothing short of transformational. The light that is illuminated in their heart and mind about how God has made them, can do more than we think to help them to live out a God-honoring future. That is why Jeremiah’s words have so much meaning as he reminds us of the future we have. For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope (Jeremiah 29:11).

Fifth and finally, we establish a genuine commitment. Blessing a child in particular does not mean we never discipline or point out areas growth needed. But children “know at an incredibly deep level if they have their parents blessing. They will do almost anything to get that blessing and attention even if it is negative. But, they will know if that parent, grandparent, or other loved one really sees high value in them, even in the tough times. Genuine commitment is an unconditional commitment to an imperfect person that says as long as I have breath, I will be there to seek to build these five elements of the blessing into your life and life-story.

So how are you doing? Are you blessed? Are you being a blessing?

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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Inside Out and Right Side Up

Peninsula Community Church

Inside Out and Right Side Up

August 13, 2017

Luke 11:37-41 While Jesus was speaking, a Pharisee asked him to dine with him, so he went in and reclined at table. The Pharisee was astonished to see that he did not first wash before dinner.  And the Lord said to him, “Now you Pharisees cleanse the outside of the cup and of the dish, but inside you are full of greed and wickedness. You fools! Did not he who made the outside make the inside also? But give as alms those things that are within, and behold, everything is clean for you. “But woe to you Pharisees! For you tithe mint and rue and every herb, and neglect justice and the love of God. These you ought to have done, without neglecting the others. Woe to you Pharisees! For you love the best seat in the synagogues and greetings in the marketplaces. Woe to you! For you are like unmarked graves, and people walk over them without knowing it.” 

I began my formal ministry in 1979. Immediately following Bible College, I moved to New York where I began to minister in a number of different ways to a number of different communities. One of the things I remember about my earlier days of ministry is that there were times where I learned more about what not to do in ministry than what to do from those who were around me. Now granted, those that surrounded me were not evil people, they just lived out of the distortions in their life. It was these distortions that directly impacted the way they did ministry. After a couple of years of ministry, I realized that some of those to whom I was connected loved themselves more than they loved God. They loved the notoriety of being a pastor more than they did the glory of God. They tended to use people for their gain, but did little to personally assist in the growth of individuals.

As I read this passage, I began to identify with what Jesus was confronting here. It is noteworthy that throughout Jesus’ ministry, He showed such grace and mercy to the sinner and the struggling believer. He did, however, reserve His harshest criticism for the Pharisees and the spiritual leaders of His day. At one point, Jesus described them as tombs that were painted white on the outside but were empty on the inside (Matthew 23:27). The idea presented by Jesus is that outwardly they appeared to have it all together, but inwardly they were empty. Because of the emptiness experienced by the Pharisees, they tended to focus more of their attention on their outward appearance than on their inward depth. Spiritually they were wide but not deep. Today, we will look at the attitudes exhibited by the Pharisees and then make an application of this truth.

First of all, we find that the Pharisees were empty on the inside so they flexed their spiritual muscle on the outside. Listen to Jesus’ words here. Woe to you! For you are like unmarked graves, and people walk over them without knowing it (Luke 11:44). And then in Luke 11:46 Jesus had this to say. “Woe to you lawyers also! For you load people with burdens hard to bear, and you yourselves do not touch the burdens with one of your fingers (Luke 11:46). Here is the bulk of the problem for the Pharisees. They burdened people with rules, laws, and requirements that they themselves were unable to obey or follow. I have often said that when our hearts are not right with God it is easier to make a law than it is to allow God to transform our hearts. Jesus is and has always been more about the transformation of the heart than He is about obeying man’s religious rules. The Pharisees missed this as they thought they could legislate morality but from my experience you cannot legislate morality. And for that matter you cannot legislate immorality. Legislation does not make right wrong nor does it make the wrong right. For Jesus, it was more about relationship than it was the law. Now unless you misunderstand, there are biblical, godly principles that we are called to obey but when applied correctly they are not burdensome but in reality they are very freeing and they move us to a place of growth and depth.

Jesus had the Pharisee’s number. He uncovered the fact that they not only forced others to obey these mandates but they did little to help others to obey. Those to whom Jesus referred to as lawyers, loved to weigh people down with laws and regulations. They were well educated, well trained people but they loved to place great burdens on others. The problem is that they imposed laws on others but were not willing to lift a finger to help carry the burden they forced on others. This is juxtaposed to Jesus’ desire for us to help each other, encourage each other, and push each other to do our best.

These actions were a result of their emptiness and dryness inside. Their emphasis was on the outward man and not the inward. As you know, I love football. To me there are two types of players. There are the ones who are puffed up and brag about how great they are and then there are the guys who go out on the field and prove they have the ability they say they do. That brings us to our second point.

The second characteristic related here is that instead of grace they functioned from a perspective of legalism and idolatry to the rules.But woe to you Pharisees! For you tithe mint and rue and every herb, and neglect justice and the love of God. These you ought to have done, without neglecting the others (Luke 11:42). They thought the rules applied to everyone else but not themselves. They felt they were above the law. They expected everyone else to tow the line. They expected everyone else to follow the rules. And yet, they bent the rules when it favored them. It could be said they worshipped the rules of God more than they worshipped the God of the rules. When this occurs, it creates a disconnect between what is true and what is false.

Notice here that they were good at giving gifts. They were dutiful and followed through with outward spiritual disciplines but they missed what was important. They attended church. They sang in the choir. They even taught a class but they missed the mark by failing to exhibit justice and love. These can be summed up in one word, grace. They lacked grace. They were well educated on the rules but missed the mark of loving others and showing others the amazing grace they had been given. Outwardly, they were obedient and rigidly held to the rules of the day, but inwardly they were empty and lacked spiritual depth. Here is a truth for us. Following the rules is great but to do so without grace and love leaves us cold and indifferent.

The third characteristic is that the Pharisees were all about control which was centered in a spirit of pride. They wanted the best seats in the house. They wanted to be recognized in the town. They would enter a room with great fanfare and pomp and circumstance. You knew they were in the room because they made sure you knew they were there. Once again listen to Jesus’ words. Woe to you Pharisees! For you love the best seat in the synagogues and greetings in the marketplaces (Luke 11:43). The Pharisees were the type that would arrive late and would make a fuss coming into the building so that you would know they were there. They were the type that would continually remind you how important they were. Again this action was a means for them to cover up the emptiness within them.

The fourth characteristic of the pharisee, and this for me is the saddest one of all, is that they stripped people of the joy of knowing God. Woe to you lawyers! For you have taken away the key of knowledge. You did not enter yourselves, and you hindered those who were entering (Luke 11:52). Because they burdened people with the law, they failed to minister with grace, and they exhibited a spirit of pride that stripped people of the joy of knowing God. The fact is they gave what they had, a lifeless, empty lifestyle. They stood in the way of others knowing the truth by virtue of their attitudes and actions toward others. Rather than seeking a knowledge of God by way of a personal relationship, they rejected that for an attitude of performance and outward visibility.

As we close this today, I am keenly aware that there two ways we can apply this passage to our life. First of all, we can look at this study and do an evaluation and then come to the conclusion that we often act as the Pharisees did. We want others to tow the line but we give ourselves grace and compromise on the very rules we set in place. We judge and condemn others while crying out for grace in our life. We are good at knowing the rules and we make sure that everyone else follows them when we fall short in accomplishing that ourselves. One way to illustrate this how do you respond when someone asks you about your Christian walk. Do you list your good deeds or do you list the good deeds of a heavenly father that loves us more than we will ever know or understand this side of heaven? Are we more concerned about following the rules, or receiving God’s grace which actually assists us in obeying the rules? Are you more concerned about how others follow the rules or do we come along side of others to help them grow in the knowledge of God.

The second way we can make application of this passage is to recognize that we often live under Pharisaical influences. We are subjected to the judgment and criticalness of one who knows the rules and expects everyone else to obey while they themselves fail to do so. They hold us to a different accounting than they are willing to hold themselves. The result is that we can become discouraged and weakened in our spiritual state. We are hindered by the words of others. But the truth is we don’t have to be. We can recognize that God’s grace is there for us and we do not have to be subjected to the emptiness of others. The fact is we must show the grace of God of those who show so little grace to us.

Here is the deal there is grace at the foot of the cross. There is grace to overcome the Pharisaical attitudes we express. There is grace to overcome the power exerted over us to obey the rules at the cost of a depth in Christ. In Matthew West’s song “Grace Wins Every Time” reminds that grace wins in every situation. We receive grace and we give grace.

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 Surprise of Christmas

Peninsula Community Church

The Surprise of Christmas

December 4, 2016

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Copyright © 2016 All Rights Reserved Robert W. Odom

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Door of Opportunity

Peninsula Community Church

Door of Opportunity

July 3, 2016

Colossians 4:1-6 Continue steadfastly in prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving. At the same time, pray also for us, that God may open to us a door for the word, to declare the mystery of Christ, on account of which I am in prison— that I may make it clear, which is how I ought to speak. Walk in wisdom toward outsiders, making the best use of the time. Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person.

Over the last few weeks we have looked at three different doors found in Scripture. We have examined the door of hope, the door of faith, and the door of invitation. Each of these doors teach us something about the grandeur of God’s grace and His love for His people. By examining the door of hope we found that our sorrows, our disappointments, and our troubles can all be turned into a door of hope. We also found that God uses our difficult experiences and the victory that comes from Christ as a means to reach others with a message of hope and comfort. Secondly, we looked at the door of faith and found that true faith is based on truth and reality and is not a rejection of either. And then last week we looked at the door of invitation and that Christ is at the door of our heart seeking an entrance way into our hearts because He wants to live with us and not just visit.

Today, I would like to look at a third door and that is the door of opportunity. As we look over the landscape of our current society and the condition of our world, we could be discouraged and we could sense that things are hopeless. If that is your reaction to where our society has fallen, your feelings might be justified because when we look at our world we find that sin and immorality is running amok. Right is wrong and wrong is right. Look at the issues that confront us today: Isis, mass shootings, extreme liberalism, financial crisis, broken homes, an ever growing drug culture, the destruction of the moral fiber of our nation, the acceptance of all kinds of sexual perversion, and so on. As we deal with these issues, we need to know that the problem is not guns. The problem is not gay and lesbians. The problem is not drugs. We have lost our moral footing and it seems we are on a slippery slope headed to destruction.

But, while things may seem bleak and hopeless let me remind you that the Valley of Achor; the valley of sorrow, disappointment, and trouble can be turned into a door of hope. God wants to transform us and He wants to use us to transform our society. The fact of the matter is that God is providing ample opportunity for us to share the message of grace and hope to a world that is hurting, fearful, and discouraged. There is also a door of faith that allows us to step into the unknown and the dark places of our lives. We are also reminded that Christ is standing at the door of our heart and is seeking access into our inner most being. Do we have a long way to go? Yes! But there is hope!

Why do I believe there is hope? First of all we find that Jesus is the Word made flesh. A couple of weeks ago Clayton and I had a conversation about how the Word was made flesh and dwelled among us. While this is a passage that can be easily quoted, it is harder to grasp the concept in its fullest sense. The Word, the King, the God of all creation became flesh and dwelt among us. He did not come to dwell outside of our lives as some disconnected energy or force but He came to dwell in us. Here is the point. As believers we know that the Word became flesh and therefore we know that He lives in us and has the power to bring change. And because Christ is in us we become Christ in the flesh to those we encounter. In other words, Christ is wrapped up in our personalities. He is manifested through our lives. The Word became flesh, He dwelled among and now He lives in us so that we can touch the world.

Just a couple of days ago my sister-in-law made bacon wrapped corn on the grilled. She wrapped the corn with bacon and then replaced the husk and then grilled it. When we ate the corn we found that the corn had the flavor of bacon. We carry with us the flavor of Christ with us wherever we go. We exude His odor and flavor as we live out life.

The second Scripture reminds us that if He is lifted up, He will draw all men to Himself (John 12:32). Notice that it is He who is lifted up. It is not our church. It is not our doctrine. It is not our personality. Jesus said that if He were lifted up, He would draw all men to Himself. So here is the question? Where do you see Christ being lifted up in your life? Where is He being manifested as the Lord of your life? Where is He living through you? If these things are evident in you God will provide a door of opportunity for you to share love with others. He will draw people to you because He is being lifted up. By lifting up Christ you will find that Jesus will draw all men to Himself. Remember what Jesus said. He stated that we are the light of the world and that light can not be hidden (Matthew 5:14). We are the salt of the earth (Matthew 5:13). We can effect society for good or bad. Paul also reminded us that we are ambassadors of Christ (2 Corinthians 5:20). We are His representatives in this world. We have been called to go into all of the world and preach the gospel (Mark 16:15-18). Note that we do not make ourselves salt, or light, or ambassadors. We are already salt and light, and we are ambassadors because of Christ living is us.

Imagine if we grasped these two primary doctrinal ideas. If He has come into the world and has invaded our hearts and our lives and if He is lifted up, He will draw all men unto Himself. What else could we ask for. Our job is made easier as it takes the pressure off of us. We manifest His presence in our life and we lift Him up and He does the rest.

How is this accomplished? I would submit to you that Paul gives us an outline of how this is done. First, it begins and ends with prayer. Paul prayed that God would open a door of opportunity to share Christ with others. His prayer was for himself but it was others focused in that He wanted be an effective minister of the Gospel. Let me ask you a question. How often do you ask God to open a door of opportunity to share your faith with others? How often do you ask God to lead you to those who need God? I can tell you from personal experience that if you seek God and ask God to open doors, He will.

Let me share with you a personal illustration on how this works. It is not some story of grandeur but it is one that illustrates the power of prayer. Almost every morning I pray that God would open a door of opportunity for me to share my faith with others. I did that on Wednesday morning. When I woke up I found that the sump pump in the basement had a leak. I examined the problem and went up to Ace to get the part. I quickly grabbed the part that I thought I needed and made my way to the cashier. In doing so, I passed one of the employees that I knew. I greeted him but his answer was less than a joyous one. He seemed to be discouraged. He was with a customer so I could not talk with him. When I arrived home, I found that I had picked up the wrong part and had to go back to Ace to return it. When I went to the cashier I found that the cashier was none other than the person I had encountered easier and sensed that something was up. So I asked him again, “how are you?” I noted that he did not sound very good before. He turned to me and thanked me for asking and noted that his wife had a lump on her neck that has raised some concern because she has battled cancer before. I told him that we would be praying for him and asked if there was anything I could do for him. I noted that we believed in the power of prayer and the fact that God is able to do an amazing work. I also noted that we would mention his request to our congregation. He thanked me and stated that he felt better already. You see I lifted Christ and invited Christ to do His work in this young man.

Secondly, we need to walk in wisdom toward those that are outsiders. The point here is that we must meet people where they are and we must focus on answering the questions they are asking. Too often we try to answer questions that people are not asking. We have done a disservice to God and His kingdom by showing a lack of wisdom toward those who do not know Christ. We must also understand that those we encounter are not the enemy to be destroyed or hated but they are a creation of God who needs Christ. You see, sometimes, we expect others to live as believers when they have not accepted Christ. And then, we also try and slam the Bible down their throats rather than building relationships.

Thirdly, we make the best use of our time by watching for opportunities to share the love of Christ. Paul is saying is that we should not waste the opportunities that are presented to us. I love one of the themes of the VBS. The kids participating in VBS are encouraged to look for ways they see God blessing. I would encourage you to watch for God opportunities to share Christ with others and then step through those doors as they are opened to you. If you are sensitive to the work of God in your life, He will open doors. When we are faithful to obedience in this regard, He is faithful to open doors.

Fourth, let your speech be gracious. Notice two things here. Our speech is to be seasoned with salt. Salt is a preservative but it also adds to the taste of food. But too much salt turns one off. If we read Scripture we know that we do not need to become salt, we are already salt. I had a friend that when he would sit to eat, he would automatically reach for the salt and add it to his food. He would never check the saltiness of the food he would simply add the salt and then he would readily admit that he had added too much. Why do we need to have the right seasoning? It is so that we know how to answer those with whom we encounter.

In the final analysis, if we ask God for open doors, He will do so. When that happens we must go through the doors with grace, wisdom and through obedience. And then we will find that God will do a great work in and through us.

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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What Is Grace?

Peninsula Community Church

What Is Grace? 

May 15, 2016

This morning I would like to look at the subject of what is grace. We talk about grace. We sing about grace. We read about grace but what is grace really. Let’s read this passage together.

Ephesians 2:4-10 But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ— by grace you have been saved— and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.

What a powerful scripture. As we begin I ask that you notice a couple of things about this passage. First, God who is rich in mercy did not give us what we deserve. You see we deserved death. Because of our sin we deserved the penalty that was laid upon the back of Christ. Instead of the penalty of death, through mercy we received life. Secondly, notice that Paul says that we are saved by grace. Through mercy we did not receive what we deserved and through grace we received what we did not deserve. But notice a third thing in this passage, it takes faith to believe that Christ has given us eternal life. This acceptance is not because we deserve it but it is just the opposite. We did not deserve it but because of Christ’s love for us He has saved us. That is Paul’s message to us.

To fully understand grace let us look at three distinctive qualities found in grace. First of all grace is unmerited. Paul stated that “It is by grace that we are saved and not by our works.” I heard Robert Morris, senior pastor of Gateway church, tell the story of a pastor who was questioned about what grace is. After the pastor thought for some time he described grace like being in a row boat. He described the boat itself as grace and the river as being life. He described the Christian life as placing the oars into one’s hands and then rowing like crazy against the current of life. If successful and if he maintained his strength he believed he would make it to the end and he would receive his reward. But here is the problem. Being fully dependent on the one doing the rowing is tiring, exasperating, and not very joyous. The pastor’s idea was that if he was good enough and strong enough he would make it to the end but that is so far from the truth. And that is certainly not grace. We cannot work for grace and we cannot work to maintain grace.

The second observation about grace is that it is undeserved. Look at what Paul had to say in Romans 3:24 Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus… We must understand that our sin disqualified us for redemption because our sin had separated us from a holy God. But because of God’s grace the very thing we did not deserve God gave us. We deserved death but God gave us life. He gave us life regardless of what we have done. The grace of God is not measured by our sin but by His gift of love.

The third aspect of grace is that it is unearned. Romans 11:6 And if by grace, then is it no more of works: otherwise grace is no more grace. But if it be of works, then is it no more grace: otherwise work is no more work. Please note this, there is a big difference between free and earned. If it is free then it is not earned and if it is earned then it cannot be free. It is either or but it cannot be both. Can you imagine getting a birthday gift and the person giving you the gift saying here is my gift but I need $89.52? That is not grace.

To understand grace we need to understand the meaning of the Greek word for “grace.” The word is CHARIS. Before CHARIS was used by the Christian community the word originally was used by the Greek culture. The word represented a superior who gave a gift to one that is inferior. We would assume that there were two people involved but in the Greek culture there were often three people involved. The first person was the one providing the gift. The second person is the one receiving the gift. The third person was the broker. The role of the broker was to survey the needs of the community and then approach those with the ability to give to satisfy the need. The gift giver would be asked to donate or provide for the need. But here is the amazing thing. While the broker would connect the patron and the client together, it was the broker who paid for the gift. Imagine with me for a moment as we apply this spiritually. God was the one with a great gift of grace to give. But grace was beyond our ability to pay. So Christ brought us together with God and as the third party Christ paid the price with His life. He connected us to God through grace and He paid the price. That is unearned grace.

So what is grace? Grace is the dimension of divine activity that enables God to confront human indifference and rebellion with an inexhaustible capacity to forgive and to bless. Grace is the divine activity of God enabling humankind with an inexhaustible capacity to forgive and bless. How powerful is that? His love and forgiveness is tireless and beyond measure. This means that there is no sin or wrong that is too big to be covered by God’s grace. That is grace.

While we see what grace is let me give you a couple of things that grace is not. First of all grace does not negate the law. The law was given to show us sin and to bring Godly conviction when we disobey God’s purpose or plan. The problem with the law is that we can be deceived into believing that we are followers of Christ by keeping the rules. We are deceived into believing that a good relationship with Christ is based on what we do or what we do not do. The result is that we feel that by keeping the rules we are accepted and loved by God. Grace however speaks to who I am and not what I do. Through grace the law is actually fulfilled and here is why. It is much easier to follow the rules when we are in a relationship where we are given love unconditionally. Through grace we know that we are accepted by Christ and I am more about being than doing. I keep the law because I am righteous and I am whole, not because I have to, that I want to be accepted by God, or that I want to be loved more by Him.

This brings me to the second the concept. Grace is not a license to do whatever we want to do. The argument against a grace teaching often centers on the idea that there is an emphasis on giving people a license to sin or do whatever they want. Paul addressed this in Romans 5:19-21-6:4. For as by the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man’s obedience the many will be made righteous. Now the law came in to increase the trespass, but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more, so that, as sin reigned in death, grace also might reign through righteousness leading to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it? Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.

Many of the Romans believed that because of grace they were free to do whatever they wanted to do. The word here for “increased” speaks of sin growing larger and being more expansive with the passing of time. This describes the growing nature of unrestrained sin. So Paul is not saying that we should sin more so that grace is expanded but rather true grace frees us from sin. Because of the Roman view on grace Paul continues in Romans 6 by asking if we should continue in sin so that grace would abound. While grace covers sin and produces righteousness in us we do not sin more so that grace is revealed more. That is circular thinking and is an error. Here is the fact. Grace covers sin but more sin does not increase the value of grace. No! Grace is a free gift of God so what we do or don’t do never impacts grace. Grace is grace because it is a free gift.

John Piper made this observation about sin and grace. No matter how deep in the power of sin we have sunk, God’s grace is deeper still. No matter how deep into the power of sin we have sunk in the rebelliousness of our lives, Christ’s grace abounded all the more in order that righteousness, rather than sin and life, rather than death, might have the final word.

Grace does not remove our responsibility. We must receive the gift of grace. The action we are to take is to receive God’s gift. God is offering a free gift that has been paid in full by Christ’s death and resurrection. While it is free we must receive the gift that He is giving. And then we must apply the work of grace into our life. We can try to obey all of the law and keep all of the rules so we feel accepted or we can receive His grace which covers all of sin and removes the guilt of striving to be loved and accepted. How freeing grace is? How freeing it is to know His love?

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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Ephesians – But God

Peninsula Community Church

Ephesians – “But God”

September 21, 2014

Ephesians 2:4-10 But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ-by grace you have been saved and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them

As we begin this study this morning, I am faced once again with an awesome problem. There is so much contained in this portion of Scripture that it not possible in one single message to relate to all that it has to offer us as believers. This one passage is filled with such great hope and promise.

Last week, we saw that Paul painted a dismal picture for the one who was without Christ. They were dead in their sin and their were in bondage to cultural demands and lusts that controlled the outcomes of their lives. As John Stott; pastor, teacher, and theologian has said; “Paul plumbs the depth of pessimism associated with man’s sin but then he arises to the heights of optimism about God.” As I read this passage, I can’t help but believe that God could have put a period at the end of verse three and then closed the book on mankind. In fact, God could have chosen to close the book after Adam, the representative of all mankind, fell in the Garden of Eden. He could have washed his hands of man but he did not close the books. He did not give up on man. How do we know this? We know this because the very next phrase is “But God.”

But God… This is perhaps the greatest single phrase in all of Scripture. Contained in this two word phrase is a new identity for man. Contained in this little phrase is the most powerful change that could ever come. What a turning point. We were objects of wrath but God out of love showed us mercy. We were dead but God made us alive. We were slaves, in a position of dishonor and powerlessness but God raised us up and set us at His own right hand, a place of honor and of authority. We were desperate and lost on the road toward destruction but God took aggressive action to reverse the condition and the conditioning of sin in our lives.

In verse 1-3, the sinner could only anticipate the wrath of God but God showed mercy and everything changed. Paul immediately turns to describing God’s motivation for the work He does in us. He begins by reminding us that the work of God is resourced through the endless riches in Christ. One of His greatest assets is His mercy, and mercy is defined as the act of not receiving what we deserve. This is a poignant point, especially, since the preceding verses detail the demise and the faulty condition of mankind.

We have talked about this word mercy before. It is a common word in Paul’s writings. Paul uses it often because Paul understood the level of mercy that had been given to him, personally. Think about it for a moment. Do you remember the story of Paul before his conversion experience? Paul was not only a nonbeliever but he sought to destroy those who professed Christ. Remember the story of Stephen? Paul stood at his side while he was being stoned and worse yet, Paul was not a passive player in this event. In fact, it was Paul who ordered that he be stoned. He rejected God and he rejected the people of God. In some people’s mind, this would be the worse kind of sinner. But God met Paul and changed his life, changed his focus, his destiny, and his purpose (Acts 8:1).

You see God could have given him a death sentence which he deserved but because of His mercy, God did not give him what he deserved. Neither does he give those who come to Christ what they deserve. We deserved the wrath of God, but God gave us mercy. We deserved death, but God does not measure out His gifts by what one deserves but what He desires to give. And it is amazing that God is rich in mercy. His bank account of mercy never runs dry. This word mercy is an interesting word. In most cases, mercy means to show concern or compassion toward those who have suffered some undeserved calamity. But here in this passage, Paul lets us know how much greater God’s mercy is for us. While mercy most often points to some undeserved calamity, in this case, mankind deserved the calamity they were in. Even though they deserved it, God showed them mercy. Why, does He do this? It is because He is compelled by love.

The love described here is the kind of love that seeks the highest good for the one being loved. Once again, notice that the measure and depth of the love being given is not based on the one being loved but on the one giving the love. Notice how this is evidenced, God extended His love and mercy to us while we were dead in our trespasses and sin. He did not wait for us to be alive and then love us. His love is unconditional and far reaching. The intensity of God’s love is defined by the adjective “great.” He is rich in mercy but He is great in love.

Paul then defines how God’s mercy and love have been showed to us. He uses three verbs to do so. Paul says that we have been made alive, we have been raised, and we have been seated. The first of these three verbs points to the fact that we have been made alive. This provides a stark contrast between those individuals discussed in verse 1-3 and those in verse 4-10. In verses 1-3 they are categorized as being dead while we now see those who are in Christ as being alive. You were dead. This is true. But now you are alive.

But how are we alive. The Bible tells us that we are all appointed to die. This body, this flesh will die but our spirit will live on. That part of us that has been touched by the power of God will live forever. You see, Christ died physically so we could be made alive spiritually. While the resurrection of our bodies is yet to come, we are made alive in our spirit now. God has once again breathed His breath into. We are alive.

The second thing that God does is that He raises us up. Not only are we alive, but we are living through the power that God has bestowed upon us. Christ rose and ascended to heaven in order to conquer death and the grave. He ascended to show His power over every force, authority, or power ever raised up against God or man. You see our position in Christ has changed. We are no longer enemies of God (Romans 5:1-11). We are no longer powerless against the claims of sin but we can now resist the temptation that is at our door (James 4:7). We can take every thought captive (2 Corinthians 10:5). Why? We are alive and we have been raised with Christ.

And then finally, we are seated together with Christ. Now once again that is not a physical positioning but a spiritual one. In the spirit we are seated with Christ and in Christ. 2 Corinthians 5:16-20 says that From now on, therefore, we regard no one according to the flesh. Even though we once regarded Christ according to the flesh, we regard him thus no longer. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. Notice that in essence that all that God did for Christ, He did for us as well. He raised Christ. He raised us. He made us alive together by grace and he seated us with Christ. We are in Christ.

The essence of these three actions on the part of God relate to the fact that we have a new identity spiritually. Notice in the first three verses of Ephesians 2. Unbelievers are identified as being dead, controlled by forces more powerful than they, and they are guilty of sin and should receive the penalty of God’s wrath. But God changed that by sending His Son to die for all mankind. And if they would confess their sin and surrender their life to Christ, they would have a new identity, in Christ. They would no longer be dead but alive. They would not just be an empty shell but would have a purpose and a reason for living. And lastly, they would spiritually be seated next to the Son where they would be given honor and power to overcome every force that would come against them.

How is all of this accomplished? It is by grace, a gift we did not deserve. You did not deserve the gift of God because you were dead in your sins and not capable of making a decision for life, but God came and gave Himself so you could have life. Though undeserved and unmerited, God extended His mercy and His love to mankind. It was by grace we are saved and not by works. This means that we do nothing to achieve our own salvation.

If these things are true, and they are. Then we are called as believers to exhibit these things in our lives. How do we live this out. John Piper made the following observation concerning mercy and how we ought to live. So we say, “Because of God’s mercy revealed in Christ, therefore, I do this and not that. Because of God’s mercy revealed in Christ, therefore I speak this way and not that way. Because of God’s mercy revealed in Christ, therefore I cultivate this kind of emotion and put that kind to death. Because I exist to glorify the mercy of God in Christ, I live this way and not that way.” Christian living is built on something! It is built on the mercy and grace of God!

Copyright © Robert W. Odom All rights Reserved

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