Tag Archives: heart

How’s Your Heart?

Peninsula Community Church 

How’s Your Heart?

February 11, 2018 

Proverbs 4:20-23 My son, be attentive to my words; incline your ear to my sayings. Let them not escape from your sight; keep them within your heart. For they are life to those who find them, and healing to all their flesh. Keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life.

Today, we hear a lot about the health of one’s heart. We measure cholesterol, triglycerides, heart rate, heart beat, and so on to determine heart health. The fact is, we have many ways of determining the health of our human heart, but how do we perform an appropriate evaluation of the spiritual heart.

Over the next few weeks, I would like to talk about the spiritual heart and how we can be assured that our spiritual hearts are in good shape. So, how do we measure the health of our heart? How do we know when we are healthy? These and other questions will be addressed during this series. To understand this process, let me make a few comments that will point us in the right direction as we have this conversation.

First, we must understand that too many today are not living according to the plan of God. When man was created in the Garden of Eden, he was created in the image of God. Think about this for a moment. Adam and Eve lived in a perfect environment. There was no sin. There was perfect harmony between them and with the world around them. They did not have arguments. They did not have to work, as God provided all they needed. Man’s greatest task was to name the animals and make sure that he was managing what God had given him. They were in essence living in the Utopia that so many long for today.

As we know by reading the story, man failed at the basic level of obedience. They had everything they needed, and yet they allowed the one thing that was beyond their reach to master them. Along with their desire and craving for what they could not have, and the enemy’s use of well timed opportunities and half truths, Adam and Eve were deceived. This changed mankind forever.

When that occurred, mankind moved away from God’s original intent of creation to live in a fallen state of mind and heart. The result has been that instead of living in the freedom that is ours in Christ we have allowed the issues. problems, sin, and the devil’s influence to form and shape our life. From the fall until now, mankind has been formed and shaped by so many forces. Think about it. We are being formed and shaped by the events of our life. We are shaped by both the positive and negative things that come. How many live in regret, fear, anxiety, loneliness, and so forth, all because of the events that have affected their life? How many live with emotions and feelings, and believe that this is just the way it is going to be without any hope for change?

Here is the point to be made. In God, we were created in His image, but because of man’s fallen state we are being formed and conformed into an image that was never intended by God. That brings us to one of the key points we need to make about this process. Because we have been formed and conformed to the world’s image, a non biblical view, we can also be transformed into a new creation. Scripture is replete with examples and admonition toward this process.

In Ezekiel, we have been promised that He will exchange our hardened heart with a heart of flesh. In other words, through the intervention of God’s work in us, we can begin to live again. You see with a hardened, stoney heart there is not much life. With a broken human heart there is a lack of blood flow to the rest of the body. As with the physical heart, when our arteries begin to harden, our life is diminished and without an intervention death or long term damage is possible. So it is with our spiritual hearts. We cannot live the life God chose for us when we are living life from the standpoint of a harden and callous heart.

Listen to Ezekiel’s words in Ezekiel 11:19-20. And I will give them one heart, and a new spirit I will put within them. I will remove the heart of stone from their flesh and give them a heart of flesh, that they may walk in my statutes and keep my rules and obey them. And they shall be my people, and I will be their God.

Notice the process here. They will be given a new spirit and their heart of stone will be replaced with a heart of flesh. Think about it, a stoney heart is not very sensitive to God’s movement. But with a heart of flesh, we are more sensitive and responsive to the work of God in us. Notice too, the response to this change of heart. Those with a fleshy heart will be empowered to walk in His statures and the directives for living life. Notice, He will empower them to walking in obedience and in following His ways.

You see many times we struggle to fulfill His purposes. Perhaps, and just maybe we struggle in these areas because there remains some areas of hardness which has been untouched or unchanged. Here is the point, so often we allow God to touch certain parts of our heart, but we guard and secure our heart so that we do not allow God’s touch in other areas of our heart.The truth is God wants all of your heart, and He especially wants all of the hardened places of your heart.

Because we have been formed and conformed it is so easy to allow negative stimuli to impact us. Let me explain it this way. Have you ever had a difficult experience with someone. Perhaps you loved someone and you had a deep relationship with that person. At some moment in time that person let you down. Perhaps they lied to you. Perhaps they betrayed your confidence. Perhaps they destroyed your relationship. Perhaps they chose someone else over you to love. You were devastated.

If this happens once, we can take the pain and usually deal with it, but if this happens more than once, we can begin to believe we are defective and that no one could ever love us. What begins to happen is that we can refuse to let anyone into our life, because we are afraid we will be hurt again, even if there is no evidence of that possibility. The result is that it becomes very hard for us to have any significant relationships. We have been formed to believe that their is no hope and no chance we will ever have a positive relationship.

Perhaps we have been formed and conditioned to turn to food, alcohol, or other addictive behaviors to bring peace and hope. The result of this conditioning is that we never really deal with the issue of life. We just cover them up and whitewash them so they are never really dealt with. But here is the truth. God wants our heart and He wants all of us because He has answers to the deep hurt and pain we experience.

That is why Romans 12 is so important to us. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect (Romans 12:2). Paul counsels us to be transformed. How is that accomplished? It is done by the renewal of the mind. You see it is the mind that affects the heart more than anything else. Have you ever talked yourself into a certain way of thinking or action? Has that thought or action later produced a negative response that wore you down rather than building you up. The point here is that God through Christ wants to transform your heart and your life. What we have allowed to be formed in us God wants to transform.

As we close, let me share a couple of thoughts. I must admit that I have borrowed these from Ed Stetzer, the President of LifeWay Research. First, change comes by having a new life and not turning over a new leaf. Too often, we think if we just try harder, or do more, or act differently, we will be changed. God’s intent has always been a total change and not just a different action. The Scripture tells us that if you are in Christ, then you are a new creation (2 Corinthians 5:17). The past is gone and the new has come. The fact is too often we are trapped by the past: past hurts, past mistakes, and past events. Perhaps, today it is time to move to a new day of freedom and life.

Secondly, real change is a process and not a destination. We never stop changing. On this side of heaven we do not arrive at perfection, but we recognize that we are always in a process. We are on a journey of progressive growth. Paul was keenly aware of this principle when he stated “I am sure of this, that He who started a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus” (Philippians 1:6). Notice, Christ will continue this work until the Day of the Lord. This might be His second coming or His coming to you to bring you home, but He will keep the work going on your behalf until the end of your life.

Thirdly, real change is a process of letting go and grabbing hold of a new way of  thinking and living. It is allowing God to transform the way we look at life and at each other. Listen to Paul. He says, But that is not the way you learned Christ! Assuming that you have heard about him and were taught in him, as the truth is in Jesus, to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness (Ephesians 4:20-24). We must choose to follow God and to put off the old way of dealing with life. After all the goal is to become like Christ and be able to live in true righteousness and holiness, and not some false or surface righteousness or holiness.

So today, where are you stuck? Where have you roped off a piece of your heart like in a museum? Today is the day to begin the process of letting go and let God heal you. For some it may an instant result. For others it may take time, but God will heal if we open our heart to Him. And by the way if we ask Him, He will come to your aide and help you.

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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Strongholds – The Heart

Peninsula Community Church

Strongholds – The Heart

April 24, 2016

Jeremiah 17:9-10 – The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it? “I the Lord search the heart and test the mind, to give every man according to his ways, according to the fruit of his deeds.

As we continue our conversation on strongholds we will focus our attention on the heart today. Spiritually the heart has been defined as the seat of our emotions. Because of this, our emotions can be an area of our life that is ripe for strongholds to be established within us. The heart is that place where the enemy of our souls negatively influences until we are controlled by unhealthy emotional responses. Today, I would like to look at the susceptibility of the heart to errant emotions. We then will look at what we can do to have a new heart.

Let’s begin with the passage before us today. Jeremiah makes a definitive statement about the heart. He states the heart is deceitful and is desperately sick. The fact is without the Holy Spirit’s intervention our hearts will remain deceitful and sick. This happens because our hearts, as the seat of our emotions, can be wounded by past actions and by the words that have been spoken to us. Most of have used the cliche “Sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me.” How many would agree that is a lie? Sticks and stones do hurt us but words also hurt us. Most of the time it is easier to heal from the wounds of the sticks and stones but it is much harder to heal from the wounds of spoken words. Why is this? It is because words go to the depths our psyche. Words wound us. Words negatively effect us.

When it comes to the heart, I would propose this morning that there are several kinds of heart we can experience and all of them can be deceitful and sick at the core. I would suggest that we can have a wounded heart. We can have a hardened heart. We can have a broken heart. And we can have a weary heart. Let’s look at these for a moment. First, the wounded heart. This is the heart that is effected by the hurtful and negative words that have been spoken into our lives or by the failures we have experienced. You know what I mean. We hear words like we are not good enough. We are a failure. We don’t deserve God’s love. We will never change. These words have the potential to wound our spirit and injure us for life. As a result, unless we change we are destined to failure and to fall short of God’s desire for us.

Secondly, is the broken heart. This comes when those we trust have let us down. The spouse we loved, left us. We lost our job. We have had bad medical news. Our children have abandoned the path we have set for them. We have been hurt by infidelity and mistrust. For others it is the loss of a loved one. Each of these create in us a broken heart and broken hearts are not so easily healed. And if they are not healed they can be the reservoir of deceit and pain as everything we do will be filtered through the broken heart. Now don’t misunderstand me please. Brokenness of heart is a real issue. I have lived it myself. I certainly do not mean to minimize any one’s pain but I am also cognizant of the fact that if we do not allow God to bring healing to us the enemy of our souls can use our brokenness as an opportunity for negative influences and for the possibility of strongholds to be developed.

Thirdly, is the hardened heart. The heart is hardened when we refuse to allow the truth to impact our heart or we have been deceived. We see this in the Book of Romans when Paul says that those in the Roman church and in Roman society had rejected not only truth and but they rejected the God of truth as well. Through a rejection of truth, their heart had been hardened. The result was that the truth of God could not penetrate the heart. This occurs in us as well when we either reject the truth or we are deceived. Hardened hearts can also be realized when we continue to suffer from brokenness and wounds. We harden our hearts so we will not suffer any more pain. But the opposite is actually true. Instead healing we receive more heart.

Fourthly, we can also have a weary heart. You know how it is. We can become tired and weary of the things that impact us. We are over worked, and emotionally overwhelmed. A weary heart causes us to want to give up. A weary heart occurs when we confront the same issues over and over again which never seem to be resolved. Our children are rebellious. Our work is topsy turvy. Our family seems to have unresolvable financial issues. On and on it goes. The result is that we feel we want to give up because we are too tired and we no longer have the energy or the will to keep going on.

As we look at the heart we find it is here that the enemy of our souls loves to influence us neagtively. You see even as believers, while satan cannot possess us, he can certainly influence us to make bad decisions and do things that make our life more miserable. He can influence us to hold onto the past and not let go of the emotional bonds that are not easily broken.

But what is the answer and how do we overcome this? How do we experienced a healed heart? First, we must recognize that we need help. We must understand that our heart is broken, wounded, hardened, or weary. We must understand that we need something to change and begin to identify what that is. The problem too often is that we have been convinced this is just the way things are going to be. We are confronted with the messages that there is no hope and there is no means to bring change. We settle for bondage rather than freedom. We are convinced that we will live this way the rest of our lives. But that is a lie from the very pit of hell.

The fact is there is hope. We have the promise for a new heart and new way of life. We have a promise that God will take our stony, broken, wounded, and weary hearts and He will heal them. It is noteworthy that throughout Scripture that God gives us a new heart. He takes our wounded, broken, weary, and stony hearts and gives us a new fleshy heart. Ezekiel understood this when he penned these words. And I will give them one heart, and a new spirit I will put within them. I will remove the heart of stone from their flesh and give them a heart of flesh, that they may walk in my statutes and keep my rules and obey them. And they shall be my people, and I will be their God (Ezekiel 11:19-20).

And then in Ezekiel 36:25-28 we find these words. I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean from all your uncleannesses, and from all your idols I will cleanse you. And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules. You shall dwell in the land that I gave to your fathers, and you shall be my people, and I will be your God.

Yes! it is true that within our hearts there is a battle that is raging but that does not mean that we have to continue to live that way. We can choose to allow God to break our stony hearts and renew us with a fleshy, sensitive heart. Why is this critical? It is critical because to have a stony or wounded heart means that God is blocked from doing His work in us. And we need Him to work. By having a fleshy sensitive heart we are empowered to follow God’s commands and to follow His will which leads to receiving all that He has to offer us.

Secondly, we have to hide the world of God in our hearts. There are three passages in Scripture that bear this out for us. First, David stated How can a young man keep his way pure? Notice that David answers his own question. He states we keep our way pure By guarding it according to your word. With my whole heart I seek you; let me not wander from your commandments! I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you. Blessed are you, O Lord; teach me your statutes! With my lips I declare all the rules of your mouth. In the way of your testimonies I delight as much as in all riches. I will meditate on your precepts and fix my eyes on your ways.  I will delight in your statutes; I will not forget your word (Psalms 119:9-16).

We also find that the temptation of Jesus comes to mind as he was confronted by satan directly (Luke 4:1-13). Notice that in His temptation that Jesus did not use positive thinking. He did not try to hide the problem. He did not justify his actions. What did He do? He used Scripture to counter satan’s ways. You see much of the temptation Jesus was faced was emotional. Notice that Jesus was hungry and satan offered him bread. He was playing with Jesus’ emotions but Jesus passed the test. Finally, the Scripture tells us that when we know the truth, the truth will set us free. For this to happen we must know the truth and that truth must be applied in our life (John 10:10).

Thirdly, we must recognize that this is an ongoing process of healing and restoration. We can never rest on the laurels of the past or on what God has done in the past for us. We must always be aware of the tactics of the enemy. He seeks to capitalize on our weaknesses and our failures. He knows the hot buttons in our life and he knows exactly what will set them off. Have you ever noticed that we are attacked at the most inopportune times. We are attacked when we are tired! We are attacked when we are overworked. We are attacked when we feel under appreciated. We are attacked when we feel that we have been deceived. While I have overcome the enemy over certain things I must be aware that I must consistently resist the devil and his schemes and he has many.

Fourth, we need to shut the door of our heart to the works of the enemy. When we recognize that the enemy is at our door, we must slam the door shut. Remember Cain and Abel. God spoke to Cain and said that sin is crouching at his door. And the Lord had regard for Abel and his offering, but for Cain and his offering he had no regard. So Cain was very angry, and his face fell. The Lord said to Cain, “Why are you angry, and why has your face fallen? If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door. Its desire is for you, but you must rule over it. (Genesis 4:4-7). This is the sad part of this story. Cain was warned that the enemy was at the door of his heart and that he had a chance to block his work. The enemy who is a thief was at the door of Cain’s heart to steal his heart, and to rob his brother of his life. Let me ask you, if a thief were standing at your door at home would you open the door and allow him to come in. To do so would not be very wise nor would it be helpful. They would raid your home and take what does not belong to them.

That is why Jesus reminded us that The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly (John 10:10). We must recognize the thief for who he is. He is a thief. He is a liar. He is an accuser. The problem for us as Christians is that too often we give the enemy territory in our life that should never have been given to him. We open the door for him to come in and set up a residence which results in us being controlled by lies, distortions, and bondage that is unnecessary. The result is that we begin to die. We begin to become ineffective and we become weakened.

So let us resist the devil and he will flea from us. Stand your ground and be attired in the full armor of God (Ephesians 6:10-18). Through Christ we have a new heart and a new way of living. We do not have to live in bondage or in the distortion that comes. Are you ready to live a new life? Are you ready to be free? After all we are promised an abundant life in Christ. It is a full life filled with promise, hope, and a new vision for what He can do within 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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James – Why Do We Fight and Argue?

Peninsula Community Church
May 26, 2013
James – How to Fight Well

James 4:1-3 What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you? You desire and do not have, so you murder. You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel. You do not have, because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions.

James asks his readers a rhetorical question. While he is the one asking the question he is already prepared to answer his own question. The question here is “what is the cause of quarrels and fights among you?” As he answers the question he raises, he does so by showing us the symptoms of the heart as well as the solution for the issue at hand which is why are their quarrels and fights in our lives?

Conflict is an issue of the heart. Another way to look at this is to ask the question “why is it so easy for us to take the gloves off?” Why is it that we have so many fights and quarrels in life? His answer is in essence his way of making application of the fundamental principle Jesus taught in Matthew 15:19. This teaching of Jesus is at the crux of conflict both personally and corporate. Jesus taught his disciples and us that, “Out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony and slander. In Luke 12:13-15 we are reminded that our hearts are the wellspring of all our thoughts, desires, words and actions. Therefore the heart is the source of conflict, fights and arguments.

Before we look at the heart more closely, let us look at the symptoms of a heart that is divided and in need of help. In this passage, James deals with the symptoms, cause and cure for fighting and arguing. So what are the symptoms that point to the issues in our lives?

James states that the first symptom is that we have a misdirected focus as a result of our passions which are at war within us. We can define passions as desire. The word here for passion literally means pleasure which prompts you to desire. The Greek word is the same word were we get our modern word hedonism. The word means to seek pleasure.

Once again I am reminded that we have been fearfully and wonderfully made. As a creation of God we have been created with passion and a desire to seek pleasure. It is for that reason that we love to laugh. We all have passion. It may be manifested in different ways and for different reasons, but we all have passion. One person may have passion for golf while another has a passion for fishing. One person may have a passion to cook and prepare great meals while another one may have a passion to eat what has been cooked. One may have a passion for evangelism exclusively while another may have a passion for discipleship exclusively. Still another may have a passion to seek after the things of God while another may have a passion to seek the ways of the world. The bottom line is that we all have passion.

The problem is when our passion drives us to sinful pleasure and to disobedience and things contrary to God’s commands and his ways. The problem exists when are passions collide with another reality. Paul knew about this issue when he penned the words of Romans 7:8 “But sin, seizing the opportunity afforded by the commandment, produced in me every kind of covetous desire.”

While passion is a part of our lives so is conflict and problems. The story is told of a man who was stranded on a dessert island. When his recusers came to save him they noticed that there were three structures on the property. The rescuers asked him what the structures were. He said that the first structure was his home and the second was his church. When pressed about the third structure he said that was his previous church. You see even on a deserted island one can argue and fight with themselves because of the war within them.

James states that the second symptom is unmet expectations as we desire and do not have. Because we cannot have the things we desire we end up committing murder. Although unmet expectations may lead to actual murder this is not to be construed as murder but as the potential to destroy by one’s words and one’s actions. When our passions are not controlled we can begin to literally conceive how we will destroy and injure others. So often this action is a result of fear and doubt about one’s self. Sometimes this is self evident and sometimes it is a subtle ploy of the heart. The problem with unmet expectations is that they begin to wear on us and we begin to believe that we must put another down in order to elevate ourselves. We see this in America today where people are more concerned with blaming others and putting others down rather than dealing with real issues and problems.

James states that the third symptom is misplaced affections which causes us to covet but cannot obtain. When we cannot get the results we want we fight and quarrel. Here James suggests that we covet and want what others have to the point that when we cannot obtain those things we resort to fighting and arguing. When we covet something that much we are raising that item to the place of an idol in our life.

James states that the fourth symptom was a lack of trust because we do not have because we do not ask. We do not have because we do not ask. A lack of asking is symbolic of a not trusting the one that can give all we need.

James states that the fifth symptom is a wrong motivation. We ask and do not receive because we ask for the wrong things. He says that you ask and do not receive because you ask wrongly so that you can spend it on your passions. Sometimes God withholds from us because the motivation of our heart is wrong and inappropriate.

These symptoms point to a divided and uncommitted heart. Fights and arguments are therefore symptoms of the condition of one’s heart. These symptoms point to the unmet desires of our hearts. It is much like a the symptoms of a disease. Symptoms are not the disease but they point to a problem or concern. In our physical bodies we may experience aches, chills and a fever. These items in themselves are not the disease but they point to the fact that we might have the flue. So it is here in this text, the fighting and arguments that occur point to a deeper issue of spiritual maturity and inward strive.

In the body of Christ, the church, we can have arguments and fights over things when our passions are left uncontrolled. As the body of Christ, we are made up of different people from different backgrounds with different ideas and different goals, gift sets and vision for the future.
The problem that exists is that we have passion for a particular area of ministry while someone else may not have the same passion. We can believe that our particular way of doing ministry is the only way to accomplish the work of God. When we meet someone who has an opposing view or ideology about ministry it can result in fights and arguments.

We would be amazed at the cause of some church splits in churches. Splits and division has been caused by arguments and fights over carpet color, type of music, the pastor’s hair and so on. Too often we debate and argue over preferences rather than over doctrine. What I mean by this is that sometimes we desire a certain style of presentation but that is a preference rather than an issue of doctrine.

Why do our passions wage war within us? Our passions will either help us to grow and they will cause our growth to stagnate or it will throw us off course all together. Romans 7:25, “Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin.” Its our choice. Which choice will you make?

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Sermon on the Mount – Me Angry?????

Sermon on the Mount

“Me Angry?”

“Jesus’ teaching consistently attracted the irreligious while offending the Bible-believing, religious people of His day.” Tim Keller 

Matthew 5:21-26 – “You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.’ But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be liable to the hell of fire. So if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift. Come to terms quickly with your accuser while you are going with him to court, lest your accuser hand you over to the judge, and the judge to the guard, and you be put in prison. Truly, I say to you, you will never get out until you have paid the last penny.

 This study today is in reality a continuation of last week’s message on the righteousness of the Pharisees’. In fact, the rest of this chapter deals with issues of righteousness and the new economy of Christ’s law.

Jesus begins by pointing out that the law of the Old Testament said that there was to be no murder. That is there was to be no taking of life out of malice or contempt for the other person. While the Pharisees had kept the letter of the law they failed to keep the spirit of the law. So here, Jesus was dealing with the spirit of the law when he spoke to them and said that even to be angry with a brother was a sin.  That is why He states that murder takes place in the heart long before it becomes a physical act.

Then he says that to call someone a fool places one under judgment. The word used in the KJV is the word Racca! It is thought to be the sound for spitting in one’s face. In the New Testament times one of the worse things that could be done for anyone was to spit in their face. It was a sign of total contempt and rejection. In fact in most states it is a crime to spit in another’s face. One could be arrested for assault for spitting in another’s face.

The reason that Jesus dealt with the issue of anger here is that He knew that unless anger is dealt with it would give room for the enemy to work. If we do not deal with our anger we begin to retain it and then we cultivate it so that it begins to control our lives. This is why Paul says to Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and give no opportunity to the devil.”

Therefore if we do not deal with our anger it leads to sin and can lead to murdering another if not in the physical at least in the emotional and relational sense.

Dallas Willard in his book Divine Conspiracy stated that “there is nothing that can be done with anger that cannot be done better without it.” It is however a natural process that when we see things undone that anger builds naturally and finally will break into action.

The answer to the issues of life though is to handle things with love and not harbor anger which leads to bitterness. In Hebrews 12:15 the writer says “See to it that no one fails to obtain the grace of God; that no “root of bitterness” springs up and causes trouble, and by it many become defiled…”

We must first understand that anger is a God created emotion. Anger is what gets the adrenaline flowing so that we are called into action to do what we did not think we can do. But our anger needs to be submitted to God so that we do not step outside the bounds of God’s purposes and His will for us.

In most cases we deal with anger in one of two ways. These tend to be the extremes:

  1. We internalize it. The internalization of anger or clamming up – To clam up we repress the anger and we hold onto it. This leads to stress, bitterness, ulcers and other sicknesses. The Minerth Meir clinic found that when we allow things to go with dealing with them that Serotonin in the brain is actually depleted and results in anxiety, depression and mental failures.
  2. We ventilate it. The ventilation of anger or blowing up – when one blows up, their emotional energies are most often aimed and fired at someone else. This is when we say and do things that we would not do otherwise.

 The key is to direct our anger toward the problem and not the person.

 It is for this reason that Jesus says that if you come into worship and you realize that your brother has something against you that you are to leave your offering there and go to be reconciled with your brother or sister.

 Notice the steps:

  1. Realize there is an offense. There is some recognition of a wrong that has been done. Notice the person themselves has not done anything but they remember that the other person has a problem.
  2. Leave your offering.
  3. Go – Jesus calls us to go to that person and don’t let it go on.
  4. Be reconciled
  5. Then return and offer your gift.

 Other scriptures on reconciliation:

Matthew 7:1-6

Matthew 18:15-20

Mark 11:25 “And whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone, so that your Father also who is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses.”

In the final analysis we must value others and remember that every person is a creation of God.

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