Tag Archives: hope

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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Comforted to Comfort

Peninsula Community Church

June 5, 2016

Comforted to Comfort 

As I was preparing this message I was drawn to the doors that are represented through the Bible. In fact studying this I came across four doors that I believe are critical to our growth and our understanding of the love of God for us. These four doors also represent the ministry we have to those around us. I trust that you find them as interesting and powerful as I do.

The four doors that I am speaking of are represented by the door of hope, the door of faith, the door of opportunity, and the door of invitation. Over the next couple of weeks we will take a look at these doors and how they apply to our life. Before we do that, let me make a couple of brief observations about doors as a whole. First of all, doors are designed for privacy. For the most part doors keep some things in and other things out. In so doing doors provide an opportunity for protection and safety. Doors often define who we are and our status. In our home we all have those doors that no one outside the family will go through. And finally, doors represent a future for us because we never venture into our future unless we go through the doors presented to us.

With that said lets us look at the first door which is the door of hope. In Hosea 2:15 we find these words. And there I will give her her vineyards and make the Valley of Achor a door of hope. And there she shall answer as in the days of her youth, as at the time when she came out of the land of Egypt. On a first read of this passage this may not seem like much but we must understand that the term or word for Achor means trouble or sorrow. So what is Hosea communicating? He is saying that the Valley of Achor or the valley of trouble and sorrow will become a door of hope. In other words, our sorrows and the trouble we experience can be the very thing that God uses to bring hope and life to us and subsequently to others.

Perhaps the best way to understand this is to go back to the original story that Hosea is basing his comments on. After the Children of Israel had crossed over into the Promise Land they had to confront the city of Jericho. Before they battled Jericho they had been given specific instructions on how to do battle with the first city they encountered. This came by way of prayer and by seeking God’s will as to what they were to do. As we know, they obeyed God’s commands and the walls of Jericho came down just as God had promised. They were obedient and God was faithful to protect and to do battle on their behalf.

Now lets fast forward to a few weeks later where we find Israel facing yet another city (Joshua 7). They now had to encounter the city of Ai which was another stronghold they needed to defeat. But as we read the story we find there are a couple of issues. First, during the battle with Jericho we find them seeking God and seeking His will about the battle. But at Ai there is no record of them praying or seeking God before they went into battle. It appears they were relying on their past exploits to get them to where they wanted to be. Instead of seeking God they just moved a head into battle. They were in fact prideful and lived like they did not need God. And as a result they lost big time. They were routed out of the city and many of their soldiers were killed.

Secondly, we find that not only did they not pray and listen for God’s will but one of their members were defiant and disobedient to God’s plan. God had commanded that during the battle of Jericho they were not to take any spoils of war. They were to depend on God for His provision and His protection. But they disobeyed. One member of their community disobeyed God big time. The man was Achan and he took from Jericho a fine garment and some of the gold and silver. This may not seem like much today but it was a matter of specific disobedience to God’s command. And God could not allow disobedience to reign in them.

Rather than trust God they began to trust their own ingenuity and their own abilities. The result of Achan’s disobedience and him taking of the spoils of war was that he and his family were stoned to death. This was a difficult time for Israel. Because of the sorrow and difficulty faced by Israel they named the place where Achan was stoned the Valley of Achor. As we noted before the name Achor means sorrow, disappointment, and trouble. Achor was an appropriate name because of the sorrow, the disappointment, and the trouble they were experiencing. They lost the battle at Ai, they lost loved ones, and now one of their own had to be killed because of disobedience. They were in sorrow! They were in trouble! The Bible defines this emotional moments as their hearts being melted and becoming as water (Joshua 7:5). What a illustration? They were destroyed emotionally. It was from this place of pain and hurt that Hosea proclaimed though they are experiencing deep pain and hurt God would transform the valley of Achor into a door of hope. The very trial they experienced would be used to deliver them.

But how does this apply to us? First of all my guess is we have all had a Valley of Achor experience. We have all faced disappointment and discouragement. We have been filled with sorrow because of the events of our life. We have experienced lost hope. We have all experienced our hearts feeling like they have melted and we have beed weakened by the pressures of life. But there is a promise of hope and life. God has promised that He will make our Valley of Achor a door of hope.

Perhaps you are going through a deep valley at this moment in your life. As a Christian, you might question God’s concern for you while you are walking through your personal valley of sorrow. Adoniram Judson, a great missionary to Burma, was in prison because of his faith. In prison he was taunted by his Burmese captors. They continued to ask him again and again, “How does your future look to you now?” Their desire was to further his discouragement and to use his sorrow against him. That is exactly what the enemy does to us. The enemy attempts to take our sorrow and use it against us. But in Judson’s case he had a strong faith in God and the Word of God. His response was this.“My future is as bright as the promise of God.” Judson depended on God and He trusted God to keep His promises. That is what he focused his future on.

While we might take a journey through the valley of sorrow we do not have to fear nor do we have to take up residence in the Valley of Achor. Why is that? It is because God is with us. He, Jesus came to give us life and to heal our brokenness. He came to give us a door of hope. Listen to the words of the prophet Isaiah 61:1-4. The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me to bring good news to the poor; he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound; to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all who mourn; to grant to those who mourn in Zion—  to give them a beautiful headdress instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, the garment of praise instead of a faint spirit; that they may be called oaks of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that he may be glorified. They shall build up the ancient ruins; they shall raise up the former devastations; they shall repair the ruined cities, the devastations of many generations. To fully understand this passage we must know that in Isaiah’s day everyone knew when you were in sorrow and in trouble. How? you would put on sack cloth or burlap. You would smear ashes around your face and you would mope around town as if you were on your death bed.

I do not know about you but I am blessed by these words. My brokenness, my sorrow can be healed by God. No matter what I go through God can heal the brokenness and the sorrow I experience. Instead of ashes, we are given a beautiful headdress. We have been given the oil of gladness instead of mourning. Instead of a faint spirit we have given a garment of praise. The result is that we are called oaks of righteousness. This means we are strong and we can endure the trials of life. Here’s the deal through Christ we overcome.

But there is another aspect that bears our discussion in terms of the door of hope. It is that our sorrow and the difficulties we face are never wasted. What we think is our worse moment, God turns it around for our good. Listen to the words of Paul in 2 Corinthians 1:3-7. Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.

What is the plan of God? It is to encourage us and to deliver us so we can be a blessing to others. Carter Conlon the pastor of Times Square Church in Manhattan stated that “One of the reasons we will have tribulation in this world is because it is often the only way people around us will ever know that God is real. You and I will have to walk through the same fire, the same flood, the same difficult days as everybody else. However, the difference is that we have an inner source of strength that will carry us through and give us a song of praise.” What he is saying here is that in our tribulation we become real before those we encounter. By being real and allowing God to be real through us we have an opportunity to speak into others lives.

Let me let you in on a secret. One of the greatest tools for evangelism you will ever have is your testimony. We have all experienced God’s grace and His work in our life. You may not be a theologian but you have a testimony. You may not know the Roman Road but you know what God has done in you. You may not know the Scripture, but you know the promises that God has fulfilled in you. People want to know that we are real and that we serve a real God. We help them see that by sharing the sorrow we have experienced. We do so by letting God shine through us so that others see God and know His grace to us. You see you suffer so that others will see that you are real and that God is real as well.

This is not some mixed up plan from a diabolical God but it is a tool that He uses to bring life and to open doors of faith, opportunity and invitation to others. It glorifies God. Notice in the passage in Isaiah that read earlier. The Bible says that He gives us the oil of gladness, the beautiful headdress, and the garment of praise so that He will be praised and honored. That is our goal. That is our purpose to honor God and to let Him be honored through us.

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

Copyright © 2016 All Rights Reserved Robert W. Odom

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How Easter Gives Hope

Peninsula Community  Church

How Easter Gives Hope

March 13, 2016

2 Corinthians 10:3-6 For though we walk in the flesh, we are not waging war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ, being ready to punish every disobedience, when your obedience is complete.

This morning I am excited about this new series. Over the next few weeks we will look at how we can overcome strongholds and mindsets that hold us back from being what we need to be in Christ. This series is a natural outflow of the prayer series we just completed. You see through the movie “War Room” we were challenged to pray. Through small groups we have been challenged to understand the grace of God and the power of forgiveness.

Two weeks ago, we looked at the Lord’s Prayer to gain a greater understanding of how to pray effectively. As you remember, one of the key parts of the Lord’s prayer is praying that God’s kingdom would come and that His will would be done in us and in our circumstances. By praying this pray we are literally asking that God’s Kingdom and His will would invade everything about us. We pray He would invade our minds, our jobs, our relationships, our health issues, and so forth. The fact we are verbalizing the desire we have for Him to rule our life.

That brings us to our study today. While we sincerely pray and desire for the kingdom of God to be established in us, the fact of the matter is there are many kingdoms vying for that position. As we have read in our text today, Paul reminds us that we walk in the flesh. We live in a world that has been subjected to the power of sin and the rebellion of mankind. Because of this, we walk in the flesh and we are subjected to the work of the flesh in our lives. But Paul is also clear that even though we walk in the flesh, as passionate followers of Christ we have a set of weapons that can destroy the schemes of the enemy and the the strongholds that have been established in us.

So what is a stronghold? If you look at the second part our passage for today, you will find that Paul defines the idea of a stronghold. He states We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ, being ready to punish every disobedience, when your obedience is complete. So a stronghold is a mindset or thought process that controls our lives. It can be a sin we continue to confront, a shortcoming or failure we continue to experience, a past experience we can’t let go of, or a strong emotion such as fear, jealously, or anger that keeps surfacing. Without dealing with these strongholds they hang onto us and deter us from who we should be. They become a stumbling block and serve to defeat us rather than strengthening us.

As we look into this subject let me give a warning at this stage. We must never become so focused on spiritual strongholds or demonic activity that we fail to see that Christ is victorious in us. To do so gives credit to the enemy that he does not deserve. To do so allows us to justify our sin, our actions, and our negative thoughts. It is more effective to focus on His victory, His word, and His power in our life. That is the message of Easter and it is our message today.

With that said, let me dive into this subject. We must understand that while we have come into a relationship with Christ, we come into that relationship with baggage from our past. This baggage can include but is not limited to various mindsets, emotions that have not been healed, sins that have not been confessed, or a misconceived theology for living. As we live life we are also impacted and affected by the experiences we have and the people we encounter.

To fully understand this battle our discussion must not begin at the fall of mankind or focus on the post fall condition of man. We must begin our story earlier in the narrative. The fact is we must begin with the intent and desire of God in the creation. Therefore it is necessary to  begin with the creation and not the fall. That is why it is not a mistake that the Biblical story begins in Genesis 1:1. The first chapters of the Bible teach us that God created something beautiful and wonderful. After each day of creation, God proclaimed His work “good.”

But why start here? We do so because we need to be reminded that in creation we were fearfully and wonderfully made (Psalm 139:14). We were not only created out of the dirt of the earth, but we were created in the image of God. That should mean something to us. Because we are created in the image of God, we have value and we have a purpose. This also means that every life has value no matter who the person is. He made an amazing creation created in His image and filled with His breathe.

But as we know, by way of the historical perspective of the Bible, there was a problem. Because of the fall of mankind, what God created was contaminated by sin. If you will for a moment think about life in the Garden of Eden before the fall. Man walked with God and He had an acceptance with God and with each other. That was priceless. They walked in an innocence that was pure and perfect. In the Garden, man was called to have dominion over the earth and the animals of the earth. So, we find that in the Garden of Eden mankind had acceptance, he walked in innocence, and he had dominion over God’s creation.

But, as we know, that all changed on the day Adam and Eve sinned. All of life was pushed out of kilter. From that day forward what was once so easy for mankind had now become a battle. What God had given man and the essence of creation has been defamed and destroyed. With that said let me make sure that we know that while the situation has changed we are still valuable in the sight of God. We are still a creation of God. That is why the process of redemption is to restore mankind to His original purpose. Redemption provides us with acceptance. We are given  forgiveness which is restored innocence. And dominion over all of creation has been restored.

As we consider this in relationship to the theme of strongholds, we begin to realize that humankind’s attributes before the fall become glaring needs after the fall. First of all in the Garden mankind walked in acceptance. But after the fall acceptance by God and subsequently by others was replaced by rejection. The result was a need to belong and because of sin it became more difficult to feel accepted. The problem is exasperated when we are rejected over and over again. The result is that we begin to feel rejected as a person and we begin to think that rejection is a way of life for us. Because of the feeling of rejection we strive more and more to be accepted and loved. In our effort to be more accepted and loved we succumb to peer pressure to be liked and loved. If we are not careful we will do whatever it takes to be accepted by our peers, our coworkers and our family. We end up in a vicious cycle of wanting acceptance but we experience rejection. The result is that we allow a stronghold of rejection to establish a false kingdom in our heart. When this happens we filter our decisions and the actions of others through the filter of rejection. Because we feel rejected, we lose the will to try.

Secondly, because of the fall of mankind innocence was replaced by guilt and shame. The result is that too many people have a poor sense of self-worth therefore they strive to find their worth and value in people and things rather than in Christ. The advertisement world plays on the need for self worth. If you buy this car, shop at this store, wear this brand of clothes you will have worth and you will be accepted by your peers. Striving for a sense of worth can cause a stronghold to be established as we will do anything to feel worthy, even if it is a false worth. You see we strive for self-worth by doing things we believe will fill that void in our life. We work harder and do more and yet we feel more shame and guilt. To make things worse we begin to filter the activity of our through shame and guilt which inevitable brings more shame and guilt.

The third aspect here is that dominion was replaced by weakness and helplessness therefore we have a need for strength and self-control. People attempt to meet this need by disciplining themselves or by trying to control others. Trying to control others is in reality a symptom of insecurity and a lack of self worth. In essence, we try to satisfy the need for dominion by trying to control others. Control is a stronghold that is sin’s answer for lost dominion. On the other hand while we try to control others we also try to control ourselves. We do so through strict and extreme efforts to discipline one’s self and one’s actions. We try to manage sin rather than dealing with sin. The result is that we are led to a spirit of legalism, perfectionism, and self-destruction. Additionally, when we try to control ourselves and control others we are never satisfied so we try and control more. Thus the stronghold only gets stronger.

As we bring this to a close today, I read this week that as believers we are not trying to become saints we are saints who are becoming like Christ. That is so true. That is why we do everything we can to bring every thought into captivity to the glory of God. We filter everything not through the hurt or stronghold but through the filter of God’s word, His redemption, and His power. In our HVAC systems we have filters that take out contaminates and dust out of the air. If that filter becomes clogged it will not allow the air flow through the filter and then there are problems. The same goes for our mind as well. We need a new filtering system. That is what we will be talking about over the next few weeks.

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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The Perfect Storm

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Things to consider:

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

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

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

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

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