Tag Archives: hope

Grief: Finding Hope in the Darkness

Peninsula Community Church 

Grief: Finding Hope in the Darkness

January 27, 2019 

Psalm 31:7-10 I will rejoice and be glad in your steadfast love, because you have seen my affliction; you have known the distress of my soul, and you have not delivered me into the hand of the enemy; you have set my feet in a broad place. Be gracious to me, O LORD, for I am in distress; my eye is wasted from grief; my soul and my body also. For my life is spent with sorrow, and my years with sighing; my strength fails because of my iniquity, and my bones waste away.

Today, we begin a new series. The reason for this series is that we have all been affected by the power of grief at some point in time. If you have not, you will. To focus our attention I have entitled this series “Grief: Finding Hope in the Darkness.” Over the next couple of weeks we will take a look at grief, and how God can use grief to bring us to a new normal. We will see how God can bring us to a place where can trust in His grace and His power again. To be honest, there is much to cover so fasten your seat belts and let’s get started. 

To begin this study it would be helpful to define grief. Grief is a multifaceted and natural response to loss, particularly to the loss of someone or something that has died, to which there has been a bond or deep affection. While our focus will be on the grief that comes from losing a loved one, we recognize that grief can come from several different areas in life. It might be a lost job, financial disaster, loss of a home, a pet, and more. Grief is grief no matter what and everything we discuss here applies to every circumstance.

The question often asked in the process of dealing with grief is why does the loss of a loved one hurt so much. I think the answer is found in the fact that we grieve because we have loved. To love and lose is to encounter grief. Grief must be understood as a natural response to loss. It is the emotional suffering one feels when something or someone the individual loves is taken away.

Along with our definition stated above we also find that the Bible does a good job of defining grief. David grieved on multiple occasions and he did not shy away from writing about his grief. As we read his stories, we find his spiritual, emotional, and mental condition expressed through the pages of the Psalms. He knew the power of grief, but he also knew how to navigate grief to establish a new normal. We are also reminded that Jesus grieved. He grieved the loss of Lazarus, His best friend. The Bible says He wept. He cried bitterly. I love that Scripture does not shy away from giving us insight into the heart of Christ. We find the one who created all things, and knew that Lazarus would be raised from the dead, still mourned and grieved over his death.

In this passage, David does a good job of defining and painting a picture of grief. Did you catch his description? My eyes, my soul, and my body are wasted from grief. David is saying I am spent. I have nothing to give because I am so worn out from my grief. I am consumed by the pain and agony of my grief. There is nothing left. Do you see his pain? Do you feel his anxiety? He is worn out. He goes on to say that his life is spent with sorrow and his years with sighing. Have you experienced such grief? Perhaps you still do? At some point we will all have an encounter with grief that is beyond our ability to understand or cope. David had such an encounter. 

David knew the agony of grief on many levels. If you remember the Biblical account of Saul and David, Saul had targeted David and was trying to kill him. David had been anointed as king and now Saul was trying to do everything he could to take him out because of jealousy and fear. David grieved over the loss of his son when he had taken Bathsheba and set her husband up for death. David grieved when his best friend Johnathan died. David’s life was filled with grief and sorrow. He knew grief, but he also knew his Lord would sustain him. 

So for today let me give you a couple of points that will help us understand the journey of grief. The first point is that grief is chaotic and it is more like a tangled ball of emotions than a linear process. There has been some research that suggests that grief is linear and moves from one stage to the next. Rather than being linear, grief is one big ball of emotions that impact us on a daily basis. While it is true we deal with denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance these are not stops along a path to healing. In fact, we can experience one or more of these at any given moment or any given day. Sometimes we revert back to the areas we feel we have already conquered and are familiar to us. 

The second point is that grief is normal. Too often when it comes to grief we try to remove the process from our life. We tend to want to get rid of it. Somehow, we think we are different. Somehow, we believe that no one else is experiencing grief like we do. Somehow, we are deceived into thinking that what we are going through is so different and is not normal. But from the onset of our discussion know this, grief is normal. To love and to lose causes grief to come. 

Too often, we try to avoid grief because we think somehow we should be immune to its effects. Sometimes we are confused at the effects of grief upon our life. A case in point is when my mom died 4 years ago. To give some background, my mom and I were separated when I moved in with my dad in 1969. I had been living with my mom and stepdad for five years prior to this. Those years had been very difficult as my stepdad was a very violent man because of his alcoholism. 

Later in life, I found out that my stepmom had destroyed letters that had been sent to me by my mom. But through a miraculous set of events, nearly 25 years later, my mom and I we were able to reunite. God knew what He was doing because shortly after that my mom had a major brain tumor that required her to have surgery. What appeared to be a successful surgery turned into a struggle for her as she had multiple seizures, and quickly developed dementia and Alzheimer’s. I lost her again as she was no longer cognizant of anything going on around her. When she was moved to a nursing home I lost total contact with her, as my stepbrothers did not keep me in the loop. So for another 10 years or so I lost contact again.  

At Christmas four years ago I received a call from my stepbrother that my mom was not doing well and did not have long to live. This was surprising because we had not had any contact prior to his call. I booked a flight for New Year’s Day to fly to Austin, Texas where she lived, but on New Year’s Day morning around 4AM I received a call from my stepbrother that she had passed away and that I did not need to come to Texas. They would not be doing a funeral service for her. Now to my point. Because of my separation and not being very close to her, I had often wondered how I would respond to her death. What surprised me when she passed is that it did a number on me. What I thought would be an easy path to travel turned into a difficult journey. I believe that my grief was enhanced because I struggled with regret and many other emotions. I began to believe that I was alone and that no one else experienced such things. But as I would later find out everything I experienced was normal. It was a part of the journey toward healing that I needed to process. So my friend know this, grief is normal.

Thirdly, everyone will experience and deal with grief differently. Too often we try to pigeon hole people into dealing with grief a certain way. Too often we tend to judge how people deal with grief from how we ourselves deal with grief. But here is a fact we need to understand and accept. No two people experience grief the same way. In fact, we do not experience grief the same way with different losses in our life. The point is do not ever let anyone tell you how to grieve. The fact is even within a family different members of the family will experience the loss differently. Personally, we will respond to different losses in different ways. No two losses and no two people will be the same. Each person will navigate grief differently. Therefore, we cannot allow ourselves to be placed in a box, nor can we place others in a box in regard to the way grief is handled. 

Fourth, and this is critical, you can take your grief to God. In the midst of grief you do not always sense His presence. In fact, sometimes in grief God feels distant and far away, because we are numb physically, spiritually, and emotionally. This makes grief a difficult process, but we can know that regardless of how we feel; God is always there and we can take our grief to Him. 

Stephen Viars, counselor and pastor, had this say about grief. “I can’t understand God as my rock unless I am willing to acknowledge that I’m feeling overwhelmed. To be able to talk to God and to other people in my life about it is an important step in processing grief with truth.” Look at David’s words here in this passage. David who knew grief well called out to the Lord. I will rejoice and be glad in your steadfast love, because you have seen my affliction; you have known the distress of my soul, and you have not delivered me into the hand of the enemy; you have set my feet in a broad place. Be gracious to me, O LORD, for I am in distress.

When we are in the midst of grief, it is hard to navigate grief, but never hesitate to bring your grief to God. We can do that because God loves us no matter what we experience. His love for us is steadfast which means it is unmovable and unchangeable. Additionally, we can be assured that God knows and sees our affliction and the stress we experience. This is not a surprise to Him. Finally, trust God because He will deliver you and help you establish a new normal in your life. Are you ready? Are you ready to take this journey together?

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

Copyright © 2019 All Rights Reserved Robert W. Odom

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Grace and Mercy 

Peninsula Community Church 

Grace and Mercy 

September 9, 2018

Hebrews 4:14-16 Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.

This is the second installment of our Amazing Grace study. Last week, we looked at the duality of grace and truth to realize that grace does not allow us to do what we want, but rather grace empowers us to overcome sin in our life. This week we will take some time to focus on the idea of grace and mercy. As we do that, we find this passage focuses on the great high priest that came to give Himself to provide the opportunity for us to receive grace and mercy. 

As we examine this passage, we determine that we have a great high priest who passed through the heavens. Here is what I see this means for us. Christ came to earth as a baby born of Mary. He came to us, so we could get to Him. He reached down to us, so we could reach up to Him. He came to fill the void between us and God. 

What is this void? We find in scripture that man could not look upon God because God was completely holy and totally sinless. In fact, God’s glory was so powerful that there was no way for man to look upon God without death. When Moses, one the holiest men ever to live, wanted to see God, God stated that “you cannot see my face, for man shall not see me and live” (Exodus 33:20). So it was that God in His glorified state could not come to man directly nor could man get to God in his sinful state. There was a great chasm between man and God. That was a big problem. A bridge needed to built and Christ came to be that bridge for us. 

As we noted last week, Jesus came to earth to become man. He dwelled among us and it is here that He sympathized with our weaknesses and our struggles. Notice in this passage that He was tempted in every way we are, but there was a caveat. He was tempted, but He never sinned. He never succumbed to the temptations He faced. He successfully navigated the pitfalls of temptation and was able to maintain His sinless state. Some have rejected this concept as they cannot believe that Jesus was tempted and if He was He could not give into temptation because He was God and God cannot sin. They argue that He could not really understand us if He never sinned, because He was perfect in His ways. 

However, I love what C.S. Lewis had to say about this subject when imagining someone objecting to Jesus being tempted without sin. Here is what Lewis wrote in response to that objection. A silly idea is current that good people do not know what temptation means. This is an obvious lie. Only those who try to resist temptation know how strong it is. A man who gives in to temptation after five minutes simply does not know what it would have been like an hour later. That is why bad people, in one sense know very little about badness. They have lived a sheltered life by always giving in.Christ, because He was the only man who never yielded to temptation, is also the only man who knows to the full what temptation means — the only complete realist.

John Piper suggests that perhaps Jesus can sympathize with us in our allurements to sin, because He was tempted in many areas. Perhaps, he was tempted to covet all the nice things that Zacchaeus owned, when He himself had no place to lay His head. Perhaps, He was tempted to take revenge, when He was wrongly accused. Perhaps, He was tempted to lust, when a young girl Mary wiped His feet with her hair. Perhaps, He was tempted to pout with self-pity, when His disciples fell asleep in his last hour of trial. Perhaps, He was tempted to murmur at God, when John the Baptist died at the whim of a dancing girl. Perhaps, He was tempted to gloat over His accusers, when they couldn’t answer His questions. We do not know if that is true, but we do know that He was tempted in every way we are, but He resisted that temptation and remained pure and sinless. He knows temptation and He knows how to resist temptation. Therefore, He can sympathize with whatever you are facing. He has been there.  

We then come to the crux of the issue here. Because He was tempted without sinning, a door was opened for us to come before the throne of grace with confidence. At that throne He will hear us, and most importantly that He will understand us. It is there we are accepted. That is a miracle in itself. He understands us. He knows us and He is still willing to accept us even with all of our flaws. 

Notice this, the Son of God, who understood grace and mercy more than anyone else, has opened a door so that we can confidently approach the throne of grace. Notice two things here. It is a throne. That tells us that there is majesty and royalty on the throne. Thus the throne needs to be approached with honor and respect. Secondly, it is a throne of grace. While we approach with honor and respect, we do not have to fear the one on the throne in the sense that we believe He will reject us. It is a throne of grace. The problem for so many, and the lie that has been propagated by the enemy of our souls, is that when we have been tempted and we succumb to that temptation, there is no hope. We feel lost and helpless. But notice that when we approach the throne of grace with confidence, He gives us grace and mercy in our time of need. 

You see we approach the throne of grace with confidence, not fear and doubt. We can approach the throne of grace without the fear of rejection and the worry that we are good enough to be accepted by Him. Sometimes, it feels like we are being called into the principle’s office, or before the judge for a crime we have committed. But, when we are in God’s presence, it is a place of grace and mercy. It is a place of acceptance, where we boldly come to ask for repentance and healing. 

Because He has done what He has done, we can approach God with confidence. One of the saddest results of temptation is to be drawn away from God, but the lesson here is that He is for us. Rather than hide from our sin, our wrongs, and the issues we face, we can enter with confidence that He is going to accept us. Rather than trying to hide because of our sin, the author of Hebrews shows us that we should draw near to Jesus, our sympathetic high priest, who gives us access to God’s throne. For those who are in Christ, the throne is not a place of fear, but rather it is a throne of grace! It is not a place of doubt and questioning if He will accept us, it is a throne of grace. It is not a place of rejection because we have sinned some great sin that we believe is past God’s touch. It is a place of grace! It is a place of mercy! 

The story is told of a little boy who wanted to buy a puppy. He had saved his money and the day came to go down to the pet store to buy this new pet. The shop owner paraded several dogs before the young boy and finally he showed the boy four brand new puppies. The boy loved those puppies and wanted to buy them, but when he heard the price he hung his head. He responded that he could not afford to buy them, not even one of them. Suddenly, from around the corner came one last puppy. That puppy was also a part of the litter and had been born with only three legs and several birth defects. The shop owner stated that the dog would never grow up to be a normal dog. The little boy proclaimed emphatically that was the dog He wanted. The shop owner asked him why and the little boy rolled up his pant leg to show that he was missing a leg because he too had a birth defect. He told the shop owner that his family did not reject him and loved him in spite of his defects. The shop owner with a tear in his eye gave the dog to the young boy for free. Because Jesus knows our pain and our shortcomings, He accepts us just the way we are.  Regardless of our defects and issues, God receives us and accepts us, because His throne is one of grace and mercy. 

As we close this morning, let us look at the words grace and mercy for a brief moment. We discussed last week that grace is the unmerited favor of God. By grace we get what we do not deserve. Mercy on the other hand means that we do not get what we do deserve. We deserve death, but Christ came to pay that debt for us. You see the wages of sin is death, but Christ paid that debt upon the cross, and if we come before Him and humble ourselves before Him, He will receive us and give us grace and mercy.

Here is the point being made. We can enter with confidence into the throne room of grace because God understands us. That is amazing and that is amazing grace at its best. Jesus understands this and He knows the difficulties firsthand that we face in every day life. It is for that reason that He can extend us grace and mercy, so that we are free to live full lives, as a result. 

Finally, we can rejoice that there is a throne of grace. What a world would this be if God sat on a throne of “justice” only, and if no mercy were ever to be shown to people! Who is there who would not be overwhelmed with despair? But it is not so. He is on the throne of grace. By day and by night; from year to year; from generation to generation; He is on the throne of grace. In every land He may be approached, and in as many different languages as people speak, they can plead for mercy. In all our trials and temptations we may be assured that He is seated on that throne, and wherever we are, we may approach Him with confidence that He will receive us.

So, where has the enemy lied to you. How often has he communicated to you that you are not worthy to approach God? Where has He lied to you that you have sinned too much or that what you have done could never be forgiven? These are all lies because the throne of grace is alway available to us. We are never prevented from coming to that throne. It is a gift freely given through a God who freely gave His all for us. So, enter now with confidence and boldness. 

Let us pray!

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

Copyright © 2018 All Rights Reserved Robert W. Odom

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The Best is Yet to Come

Peninsula Community Church

The Best is Yet to Come

May 13, 2018 

Romans 8:18-25 For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.

A number of years ago I did the funeral for a lady in our church. In preparing for the service, the family had requested that at the end of the service I would place a fork in the casket before they closed it. When I asked them why, they stated that their mom loved dessert. When she would clear the table after dinner, she would always say “keep your fork because the best is yet to come.” What she meant was that dessert was on the way and for her that was always the best part of the meal. As we review this passage, we find Paul saying there is much that happens in life, but the best is yet come. 

With that understanding let us consider a couple of important truths. Paul begins Romans 8:18 with the word “consider” which means to make a numerical calculation. It means to reckon, compute, calculate, to take into account, to deliberate, and to weigh. The idea is one of careful study or reasoning which results in coming to a specific conclusion. So what is the specific conclusion Paul wants us to consider? It is this. Paul is saying I have weighed out the trials I am experiencing now and I have weighed out the glory that is to be revealed and what I found is that the glory to come far outweighs any problems associated with my present condition. Paul has “mentally and spiritually weighed” the evidence and has come to the conclusion that something better is coming and that brings him hope.

As we read this passage, we find that the word suffer is pluralized which means of course that there is more than one problem. Have you ever noticed that when problems come there is usually not just a singular problem but they seem to come in multiples? The point is that in life we will have sufferings. We will have problems, multiple problems. Our heart will be broken. We will sense the pain of sorrow and difficult issues which seem almost unresolvable. We will be confronted by health issues that blindside us. Our children and other family members will disappoint us and fall short of the potential we believe they have. There will be arguments, fights, and issues will arise that seem impossible to overcome. We will have sufferings.

Secondly, Paul clarifies that he is looking at the sufferings we face in the present time. He calls it “present sufferings.” Paul is saying this is not the suffering of the past. It is not some future suffering we may face. It is what we are going through right now. There have been some that I speak with that share their pain and suffering. When you dig into their story, you find that the problems they are discussing occurred sometime in the past, and yet they share the problem as if it is a current issue. The problem most often is that their past problems have begun to define who they are in the present. You may be divorced, but divorce does not have to define you. You may have had serious sin issues in the past, but that does not have to define you now. Get the point. There are others times that we are perplexed by future issues that may or may not even occur. We spend an exorbitant amount of time worrying over what may never happen. In this regard, I love the words of Jesus in Matthew 6:34. Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble. Jesus understood that we have enough to worry about today, so there is no reason to be concerned about past issues or future problems.

Thirdly, Paul states that whatever we go through now, no matter how great or painful they are, they cannot be compared to the glory that is to be revealed. That future glory has not been revealed, yet, but it is coming. In other words, be patient and hold on. Just as the mom, who could not wait for dessert, would proclaim the best is yet to come, the glory that is to come also reminds us that the best is yet to come for us. Yes, we have problems, but the best is yet to come. One problem we encounter is that we are impatient. We want things now. We do not want to wait. We want instant healing. We want growth without pain. We want advancement without hard work. We want instant gratification and instant results. We are impatient people.

Paul lets us in on a secret in 1 Corinthians 2:9-10. He states, But, as it is written, “What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined, what God has prepared for those who love him”— these things God has revealed to us through the Spirit. For the Spirit searches everything, even the depths of God. God knows what you are going through this morning, and the best is yet to come.

Dr. R.C. Sproul writes in his commentary on Romans that The difference between the present degree of pain we experience and the blessedness to which God has appointed His people is so immensely different that there is no way to compare them. Any comparison we come up with falls short. When you are discouraged by your troubles, know that what is to come for you in Christ will be so much more wonderful than all of your pain. We see this in Paul’s letter to the Corinthian church. … we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal (2 Corinthians 4:16-18).

Paul stated that For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience. Think about this. Paul is saying that hope is always in the unseen. That is why it is hope. Hope that sees the future is not hope at all. For that reason, God gives calls to hope in the glory that is to come, and not in the difficulties we face in this moment of time. In life, we face two great paradoxes: the futility of suffering and the hope of suffering. Paul does not minimize the suffering we face. In fact, Paul knew better than anyone what it meant to suffer for Christ. He knew what it meant to be beaten and be left for dead. He knew what it meant to be sick. He knew what it meant to pray for healing, but healing did not come. He knew what it meant to be betrayed by those close to him. He knew all of this and yet he could express such a hope in a future glory, because His hope was not in the circumstances or the events he faced. He had a “yet to come” perspective. 

In this matter, there are two things to consider in regard to the coming glory of Christ. One is that God’s glory is revealed on the earth, and second His full glory will not be experienced until we go to be with Christ in heaven. Perhaps, it would be helpful to understand the word “glory.” Glory has been defined as the manifestation of God’s presence. Here on earth there are moments when God’s presence is revealed in powerful ways, but His full glory comes when He brings us home with Him and we get to live in His presence for eternity. 

As humans, we experience pain in different ways. This is evident most often in the questions we ask. One of the great questions that is poised by so many of us is “How much more can I bear?” “What else is going to happen to me or them?” “Why is this happening?” “Why is this happening now?” “How am I going to make it through this?” “Why me?” “Why them?” And on and on go the questions. 

When we realize that the best is yet to come, we can endure the difficulties of the present time. The result is that we will have hope and we will be focused on a greater day and a greater opportunity for the presence of God to be manifested. So in the end, this all comes back to where our focus will be. Will we focus on the present problems, or the coming glory of God? Will we focus on the difficulties we face, or the promise that the best is yet to come? 

So where is your focus? Remember Paul started this chapter with the statement that “there is therefore now no condemnation in Christ Jesus.” When we are focused on eternity and the coming glory of God, we are less likely to be condemned by the our current circumstances, because our hope is in Christ. So what are you going through? Do you need some dessert? Keep your fork because the best is yet to come. How many are facing some difficult times right now? Who needs some dessert? I have some! 

Let us pray!

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Are You Having a Crisis of Faith?

Peninsula Community Church 

Are You Having a Crisis of Faith?

April 8, 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

Copyright © 2018 All Rights Reserved Robert W. Odom

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The Journey of Hope 

Peninsula Community Church

The Journey of Hope 

December 3, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Copyright © 2017 All Rights Reserved Robert W. Odom

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He has Plans for You!

Peninsula Community Church

He has Plans for You! 

November 5, 2017

Jeremiah 18:1-6 The word that came to Jeremiah from the LORD: “Arise, and go down to the potter’s house, and there I will let you hear my words.” So I went down to the potter’s house, and there he was working at his wheel. And the vessel he was making of clay was spoiled in the potter’s hand, and he reworked it into another vessel, as it seemed good to the potter to do. Then the word of the LORD came to me: “O house of Israel, can I not do with you as this potter has done? declares the LORD. Behold, like the clay in the potter’s hand, so are you in my hand, O house of Israel.God is working on the clay. What is God doing? Potter’s house is the church. Where the father is molding and making vessels of honor. God wants to fill you and pour you out every day.

This morning we continue to look at the potter and the clay. For this time our focus will be on the potter and His work in our life. In this passage, we must once again consider that God is the potter and we are the clay. As such, we know the potter has a purpose and design in every vessel He forms and shapes. We are those vessels. We are vessels with a purpose.

As the clay, we must have an understanding that the potter has a purpose for every piece of clay in His hands and that means God has a plan for each us. Too often, what we see is the lump of clay. What the potter sees is a flower pot, a cooking vessel, or other useful vessel. We see clay, but He sees a vessel that has a purpose. We see brokenness, but He sees wholeness. We see age and health issues, but God sees a purpose. We see retirement, but God sees a new beginning. Therefore, we can be assured that He has a plan for us, and we can know that He has a purpose for our life. The difference is in our perspective. The difference is in what we focus on. Do we see ourselves simply as clay, or do we see ourselves as having great potential and worth no matter where we are in life?

Here is a truth we can bank on, you will never be happy until you fulfill the purpose you were created for. To accomplish this, we find that life is more rewarding and it is certainly more exciting. You see God did not take up pottery as a hobby. He did not set out just to make a few varied pots or vessels. He was purposeful in how He designed each and every one of us. Know your purpose and you will be blessed. Know what God is doing in you and you will be more satisfied with life.

In this regard, let me make a couple of quick observations on the value of having a life filled with purpose. When we have a purpose, we are able to focus more on what is important. When we have a purpose, we can be more effective in what we do. When we have a purpose, we are less likely to be distracted. When we have a purpose, we are less likely to lose hope. Finding our purpose is critical as studies have shown that people who lose their way and have no purpose in life can be more susceptible to suicide, depression, and moral failure. They can begin to believe the lie that they do not have a purpose and therefore do not have a reason to live. Therefore, without purpose, we die emotionally, mentally, and yes, even physically.

I am amazed at how much the Bible says about how God created us. You see, we do not just simply exist, we exist for a purpose. We exist as a vessel created by God for the purposes of God. Find that purpose and you find joy. Find your purpose and you will find your passion. It has been said do what you enjoy, you will never work a day in your life. God knows what makes us tick and what you can achieve when you partner with Him and look at what He is doing around you.

Jeremiah encapsulates this in Jeremiah 1:4-5. Now the word of the LORD came to me, saying “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you; I appointed you a prophet to the nations.” Notice three things here. First, Jeremiah was formed in His mother’s womb. In the womb, he was formed and within him was all of the DNA Jeremiah needed. He was a mixture of his mom and dad. He certainly was the combination of the genetics from all those who have gone before him. But, God also added His purposes and His calling to the mix.

Second, God consecrated Jeremiah. God set Jeremiah on a course of action where he would could fulfill the plans and purposes of God. To consecrate, means to dedicate formally to a divine purpose. God not only consecrated Jeremiah but each of us have also been consecrated for a divine purpose. This divine purpose comes in all sizes, shapes, and ways but it comes. This answers the why question, and the what are we here for question!

Third, Jeremiah was appointed to a task. He was called to be a prophet that would be in place to guide the people of Israel. There is no doubt that God has gifted us and wants to use us in His kingdom. The amazing thing is that when we are obedient to what we know to do and we are obedient to fulfill the calling of God upon our life, He will add to us and may call us to different places and different things.

We are also reminded in Psalms 139:13 that it was God who formed our inward parts and that it was Him who knitted us together in our mother’s womb. Here is the amazing thing, while we are certainly formed by our DNA and the coming together of an egg and seed, God is able to add into the mixture special gifts, abilities, and talents. You see from the beginning of time He has a purpose and plan for us.

And then in Isaiah 44:1-5 we find “But now hear, O Jacob my servant, Israel whom I have chosen! Thus says the LORD who made you, who formed you from the womb and will help you: Fear not, O Jacob my servant, Jeshurun whom I have chosen. For I will pour water on the thirsty land, and streams on the dry ground; I will pour my Spirit upon your offspring, and my blessing on your descendants. They shall spring up among the grass like willows by flowing streams. This one will say, ‘I am the LORD’s,’ another will call on the name of Jacob, and another will write on his hand, ‘The LORD’s,’ and name himself by the name of Israel.”

Again, as we consider these words we find that the One who formed us in the womb will help us. That is why there is an ongoing process of being placed back on the Potter’s wheel to shape us into the person we are becoming. When we follow Him, the promise of God is that He will strengthen us. When we are faithful to fulfill the plan God has for us, we will be like water being poured out on a thirsty land. We will be refreshing to those we encounter. Those around us and our families will be impacted in a positive way. God will bless and He will accomplish His will.

While we know we are formed and shaped by God and He continues to do that work, we have a problem. It is called sin and it is called life. After birth, we are influenced to behave and act a certain way by those around us. Words are spoken! Negative events occur! Pain happens! Problems occur! We are discouraged, beaten up, and the issues of life begin to pile up! The result is that we become distracted, and we begin to miss out on what God is doing. These things begin to reflect how we respond to the purposes of God. We are driven to seek out other purposes, but it does not work when we try to set our own priorities apart from God. So, we must find out what He is doing in us, celebrate that, and embrace God’s purpose for our life.

To keep us focused on His purposes for us, He is continuing to form and shape every vessel in His hands. When we are falling short or life is effecting us negatively, God graciously puts us on the wheel to reform us and shape us into the vessel that can be used for His Kingdom. We can resist this process because we somehow think that God is mean, and He is only concerned about breaking us, harming us, or causing us pain. But this process is not intended to harm us, but to give us value and a purpose. He is lovingly shaping us so that we become a vessel of honor. We can become bitter and angry, or we can learn and grow by His grace and power at work in us. That is why Jeremiah speaks to this and reminds us of His plan. Listen to His words.

Jeremiah 19:10-14 “For thus says the LORD: When seventy years are completed for Babylon, I will visit you, and I will fulfill to you my promise and bring you back to this place. 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. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will hear you. You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you, declares the LORD, and I will restore your fortunes and gather you from all the nations and all the places where I have driven you, declares the LORD, and I will bring you back to the place from which I sent you into exile.

Finally, notice that in the illustration of the potter and the clay that He always works from the inside out. He puts his hand down in the pottery where he is pushing and stretching us. He is after our heart. You see unless we have the right heart, we will continue to seek out things that are not in alignment with His purposes. Because of the absence of character and integrity, we may be prevented from getting the things we want. We settle for less than God’s best. Take care of the heart and the mind will follow. Our actions will follow our heart, as our words are a testimony of what is in our heart. So how is your heart? Is it leading you to follow God’s plan? Perhaps if it leading in a different direction you need to check your heart and allow God to put you back on the wheel of formation and transformation.

Finally, let me share a story I read just this week. Thomas Edison came home one day with a letter from his teacher. His teacher told him that only his mother was to read the letter. When he asked his mom what it said, she stated that it said that he was a genius and that the school did not have the capacity to train her child. For that reason, he should be taught at home. As we know he went on to become one of the greatest inventors of our time. When his mom passed away, he found the letter from the school. As he read the letter he was amazed that it said “Your son is mentally deficient and we cannot allow him to attend our school any more. He is expelled.” We all have a purpose and God has called us to make a difference. You may not be a Jeremiah. You may not be a Thomas Edison, but you are you and that is all that counts.

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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Living Like Christ – What’s In Your Future

Peninsula Community Church

Living Like Christ – What’s In Your Future

January 29, 2017

Jeremiah 29:10-14 “For thus says the Lord: When seventy years are completed for Babylon, I will visit you, and I will fulfill to you my promise and bring you back to this place. 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. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will hear you. You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you, declares the Lord, and I will restore your fortunes and gather you from all the nations and all the places where I have driven you, declares the Lord, and I will bring you back to the place from which I sent you into exile.

As I was considering the message for today I was moved by a number of ideas and thoughts. As I continued to pray, I was moved by the fact that it seems that so many people today are discouraged, depressed, and are feeling disenfranchised spiritually. The truth of the matter is that the enemy of our soul loves to get us into this stupor of depression and lost hope. It is a place where hope and faith are darkened and any forward movement in Christ is stifled. While this is true, the fact is this was never God’s intent. His intent was that we would live free and hopeful lives dedicated to serve God with all of our hearts.

We must remember that the enemy is no slouch when it comes to discouragement. He knows better than anyone the well timed opportunities he can use to discourage and cause us to feel desperate and depressed. Not only is the enemy at work but we are guilty of filling our minds and hearts with information that tends to pull us down rather than building us up. While we might feel discouraged and desperate for change, it is this desperation that drives us or at least should drive us to God. God uses the issues of life to get us to refocus on Him who is our hope.

As we look around us, there is so much to discourage us today. Financial issues, physical issues, emotional issues, relational issues, spiritual issues, political issues, and health issues all  seem to contribute to lost hope and depression. While these things are a reality it does not mean that is where He wants us to stay or live. The truth is, we can move beyond the issues and hold onto the One who makes us whole and complete. In the Old Testament, God responded to the despair of Israel by proclaiming that He had given them a hope and a future.  Because we know that all of Scripture is used to teach us the truth of God’s ways, we know that this promise is extended to us as well.

In the passage before us, there is so much that speaks to us today. First of all, notice that Jeremiah records that God proclaims that When seventy years are completed for Babylon, I will visit you, and I will fulfill to you my promise and bring you back to this place. What is being said here is there will be an end to the Babylonian captivity. The children of Israel had been dealing with this burden for seventy years and there seemed to be no hope for an end to the captivity but God promised that an end was to come.

The point being made is that we will have seasons of difficulty. We will have seasons where there seems to be no hope or no promise of a future. Our future is darkened by the events and the circumstances in our life. For Israel, God was offering this promise and yet they were still in their captivity and would be for seventy years. Notice they were in the middle of the captivity when this proclamation and promise was made on their behalf. The truth for us is that whatever issue we are facing most of them will only last for a season. The fact is we are not immune from the difficulties of life but God provides a way of escape. Sometimes this is a physical deliverance and sometimes it is an emotional deliverance. Either way we are delivered. In the end, it does not matter if we will face issues but it is how we handle them that defines who we are.

In addition to this, we find that not only will they make it through the captivity but God makes s series of promises to them about their future and the hope they have. Look at what is promised to the Children of Israel. The first of these promises is that God will keep His promise. The point here is that God is faithful and He keeps His word. God will keep them and will bring them back to their rightful position and place in the economy of God. One thing we can be sure of is that God keeps His promises to us. You can take that to the bank. He never fails us and He never gives up on us.

There are a couple of things that are noteworthy in this. First, the captivity is not the total story. It is certainly a part of the story but it is not the story itself. The issue you are walking in is a part of the story of your life but it does not have to be the story. The fact is their story does not end in captivity but it ends with promised victory and the promised welfare of the people. And as we know through history they were delivered and restored. I am sure there were moments when the Children of Israel thought their life was over and there was no hope beyond that single moment in time but God in His wisdom knew there were better days ahead. I am sure they thought the promise of being the chosen nation through which the Messiah would come was over but God never forgot and He did not give up on them.

Secondly, God promises them that He has a plan for them. The promise here is that what they are going through will not be for nothing. You see this is a promise but it is also a reminder that God has a plan for them. They were chosen as a nation through which Messiah would come. There is a plan in all of this. In the sovereignty of God there is a plan for them to be better and to achieve more for God than if they had not gone through the captivity. God has chosen us to also reveal the Messiah to all we encounter. In captivity, we can forget that God has a plan for us as we become discouraged and the light of the gospel is diminished in our heart.

Thirdly, God’s plan is to prosper them and He has plans for their welfare. He has plans not for evil but for the betterment of their life. As we look at this, we should make one observation about the word for welfare or prosperity. The word used here in the Hebrew is the word “shalom” which means peace. This is an important interpretation of this word as God’s plan is not just richness or a lot of money but his desire is to bring peace. You see there is so much more to prosperity than money or riches, peace is the focal point of what God is doing.

Fourthly, God has a plan for a future and hope. You see when we walk in peace, we don’t need riches per se. Peace will steer us to a proper perspective on our hope and future. The fact is without God’s peace there is no hope or a future. There are a couple of passages in the Bible in regard to understanding this peace.

Psalms 4:6-8There are many who say, “Who will show us some good? Lift up the light of your face upon us, O LORD!” You have put more joy in my heart than they have when their grain and wine abound. In peace I will both lie down and sleep; for you alone, O LORD, make me dwell in safety.

Isaiah 26:3-4You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you. Trust in the Lord forever, for the Lord God is an everlasting rock.

At the end of the Jeremiah passage we find there is a balance between God’s sovereignty and our free will. God will restore us and give us a future but we have our part to play. Here is what Jeremiah defines as our part. First of all, we are to call upon the Lord and we are to come and pray to Him. Prayer is always the greatest option at our disposal. Prayer is a matter of refocusing our attention from the issues to focusing on the One we know is able to take care of the problems we face. It places us in a mindset where we draw upon the grace of God and the power of God. Praying moves God but it also moves us into the place of understanding God’s will and purpose for us. By focusing in prayer, we shift our attention from the problems we face to the One who can resolve all issues of life.

Secondly, we must seek God. We don’t just seek after what God can do but who God is. The promise is that if we seek Him we will find Him. This is reminiscent of Jesus’ words in the Sermon on the Mount. In Matthew 7:7-11 Jesus says the following. “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened. Or which one of you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a serpent? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!” We are to ask, seek, and knock, and then we will receive, we will find, and when we knock we will have doors opened. This speaks of a persistent faith that never gives up and never gives out. That is our part of the plan.

The promise from God is that we will find Him and what we feel we have lost will be restored. That is the blessing that God gives. He gives us wholeness and completeness in what we do. So what are we saying today? We are saying that we will face issues in life. These issues  will feel much like captivity and desperation. It is interesting that when we are caught in the battle, it is hard to look to the future. We view everything through the eyes of the moment and the longer we deal with these battles, the harder it becomes to look to the future. We can be deceived into believing that this is the only world we will know and we can begin to give up on God and people. That is the defining mark of the enemy’s tactics in our life. He blinds us to the truth and prevents us from moving ahead to a better day.

In the end, God wants to deliver us from the captivity we face by giving us peace. It is a love and peace that passes all understanding. It is a peace that comes from God. It is a gift that we receive when we seek Him and pray to Him.

John 14:27-29Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid. You heard me say to you, I am going away, and I will come to you.’ If you loved me, you would have rejoiced, because I am going to the Father, for the Father is greater than I.

Philippians 4:4-7 Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

So here is the deal this morning. We are facing and we will face great difficulty but in the midst of the difficulty God’s peace can overflow us and fill our hearts with peace. Peace may not change the circumstances but it certainly changes our outlook and our focus. Sometimes our lives feel like they are out of order and confused. It seems that nothing makes sense but when the great conductor of our lives steps to the podium life makes sense again. Watch this video if you will and then we will close in prayer.

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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