Tag Archives: love

Making Sense out of Suffering

Peninsula Community Church 

Making Sense out of Suffering

October 8, 2017 

John 11:1-8, 11-16  Now a certain man was ill, Lazarus of Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha. It was Mary who anointed the Lord with ointment and wiped his feet with her hair, whose brother Lazarus was ill. So the sisters sent to him, saying, “Lord, he whom you love is ill.” But when Jesus heard it he said, “This illness does not lead to death. It is for the glory of God, so that the Son of God may be glorified through it.” Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. So, when he heard that Lazarus was ill, he stayed two days longer in the place where he was… After saying these things, he said to them, “Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep, but I go to awaken him.” The disciples said to him, “Lord, if he has fallen asleep, he will recover.” Now Jesus had spoken of his death, but they thought that he meant taking rest in sleep. Then Jesus told them plainly, “Lazarus has died, and for your sake I am glad that I was not there, so that you may believe. But let us go to him.”

I have always been fascinated with this story. It is an amazing story of faith, trust, and belief in something greater than ourselves. This story is as applicable to us today as it was in that day. Just like Mary and Martha we encounter problems in our life that are beyond our comprehension. We encounter problems that cause us to question “Where are you God?” “Why did you not do something to intervene? Why did You let this happen? When you look at the underlying heart of those in this story it seems that is the question that is being asked.

We are all too familiar with tragic stories and events in our life that leave us with more questions than answers. On Sunday night, a horrific scene unfolded in Las Vegas. This was a tragedy that was unprecedented. It revealed the amazing power of one man to take the lives of so many and wound hundreds more. That coupled with three major hurricanes and two major earthquakes in Mexico. There is so much that is present in our lives to cause fear, faithlessness, and hopelessness. There is so much around us that leads us to ask where is God in these times?

I am convinced that this story sheds light on the difficulties we face and the problems we encounter even today. Notice this is not a parable, which is a word picture or story that is used to express a theological or Biblical insight. This is a real life story experienced in real time. The pain felt here is very real. The death of Lazarus for the characters in this story was final and there appeared to be very little hope for a different ending.

We find Mary and Martha’s brother was sick and was about to die. If you remember it was Mary and Martha who served Jesus when He visited their home. These sisters, who loved their brother, brought this devastating news to Jesus. They were filled with an expectation that Jesus would respond to their need. After all Lazarus was Jesus’ friend also. But Jesus does the unexpected. He says to them do not worry, I will be there in two days. Can you imagine the sinking feeling in their heart? I can imagine their response might be hey Jesus, Lazarus does not have two days. Our brother is dying and he needs your intervention. He needs you now. Heck, we need you now.

We do not know Mary’s heart here but I wonder if she had thought “remember me Jesus.” I was the one who anointed your feet. Jesus, it’s me. Don’t you remember all that I have done for you. While everyone else was eating and enjoying themselves, I served you. While my sister was busy making dinner and serving the guests, I was anointing your feet and wiping them with my hair. Doesn’t that count for something? She pulled the “I deserve it card” on Jesus. The reality is, we do not deserve any of the blessings of God, but He gives them anyway, because He loves us and He is a grace giving God. Now many times do we play that card?

With that said let us look at a couple of lessons from this passage. First of all, suffering is undeniable. We cannot deny the existence of trouble and the problem of sin in this life. Trouble and difficulty happens to us all. It does not matter who you are or what you have done. One of the problems with society today is they attempt to deny the existence of evil or have misdefined what is evil.

The second lesson for us is that suffering is unavoidable. If you are alive and you are breathing you will have problems. You will suffer. People do dumb things. Things happen. Problems exist. Jesus said that in this life you will have problems. Every book in the New Testament deals with the issue of trials and difficulties in some way. One of the reasons we suffer trials the way we do is that people have rejected the truth of God. When truth is rejected, the foundation to understand God is removed. The result is suffering.

In Romans 1, we find that when people reject the truth, there is a consequence. The people of Paul’s day rejected God and they rejected truth. This resulted in futile thinking, becoming  foolish, and action that came from an impure heart. Notice, God gave them over to these mindsets which are opposed to God’s way of thinking. God allowed them to follow their own desires because they were not willing to follow and obey the truth.

The third lesson for us is that no matter what happens, Jesus has not forgotten us. He always knows best and He can take the worse of situations and bring them in alignment with His purposes. One of the problems is that many times we begin to believe that our suffering is a measurement of God’s love for us. But that is untrue. It is a lie that is propagated in our hearts to cause us to reject God and turn our focus away from Him. Jesus loved Lazarus which is a recognition that the suffering he experienced was not incompatible with His love for him.

To show that God is in control notice the two statements made by Jesus. These statements remind us that He is all knowing and He is all wise. Two things exposed here. This situation was a pathway to bring glory to the Son of God so they might believe. The point was that Jesus was to be glorified through this difficult situation. The glory of God is the manifestation of his presence and is a manifestation of His presence in people’s hearts and into their situations. That is and has always been the plan. The end result was to be a stronger believe in Jesus.

Let’s bring this closer to home. We were all shocked by the news of last Sunday night. So many lives were negatively impacted by the shooting. But there is another side to the story. You see when we experience a dark moment in our life we can focus on the problem and the suffering and miss what God is doing.

What we do not always hear on the news is the positive accounts of God’s grace. The focus has been on the shooter, as it should be, but we can miss other stories within the story. There were great stories of heroism through this event. While the shooter represented the worst of us those who stepped up to help, even under the worst of circumstances, showed the best of us. Whether it was the war veteran who placed his thumb in the wound of one of the victims to stop the bleeding, to those who used their personal clothing to stop bleeding. We saw those who used their personal cars to transport people they did not know to safety and to the hospital. We have heard the story of those who shielded others and were killed themselves.

There is another aspect of this that bears mentioning as well. We have a friend, Dave Early, who founded a church in Las Vegas. Dave has since turned the church over to one of the cofounders, Chris Martin. Chris made the following observation. This crime has brought people together like nothing else. They are sharing their goods, they are donating blood, they are passing out water. They are distributing food. The city is active with the grace of God. People are more open to hear the message of hope found in the Gospels. People are focusing their attention toward God like never before. The son of God is being glorified and people are believing in Jesus.

The final lesson is this. Through every situation we face and through every difficulty we encounter God’s glory can be revealed. As His glory is revealed, we learn to trust God more and in a deeper way. Remember the end of the story. Lazarus was dead, but with a word from Jesus he rose. He was alive and he walked out of the grave healed and whole.

I cannot help but think of Joseph’s words in Genesis. He suffered. He was rejected by his brothers. He was sold into slavery. He was falsely accused. He was thrown into prison for a crime he did not commit. He was forgotten and lived in the reality of broken promises. But in the midst of the story every time a difficulty occurred, we find that the Lord was with Joseph. In the end, listen to Joseph’s own words. “Do not fear, for am I in the place of God? As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today. So do not fear; I will provide for you and your little ones.” (Genesis 50:19-21).

God’s glory was revealed and faith was built in Joseph’s brothers. Mary and Martha were able to experience God’s glory and their faith was built. Today, we can be impacted by the trials of life but we can also be encouraged to see the glory of God and have our belief in God restored. Rather than focus on all that is bad and wrong, we can focus on God. He is at work. He has not forgotten you. He is with you. He wants to glorify His name and He desires that in the process that your faith will grow.

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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What Motivates You?

Peninsula Community Church

What Motivates You?

March 12, 2017

Nehemiah 2:9-12 Then I came to the governors of the province Beyond the River and gave them the king’s letters. Now the king had sent with me officers of the army and horsemen. But when Sanballat the Horonite and Tobiah the Ammonite servant heard this, it displeased them greatly that someone had come to seek the welfare of the people of Israel. So I went to Jerusalem and was there three days. Then I arose in the night, I and a few men with me. And I told no one what my God had put into my heart to do for Jerusalem.

This week I shared a story with someone about our son who was known for sleeping to the very last minute. Not only would he sleep to the last minute but he would also sleep so soundly that it would take a bulldozer to get him out of bed. This was an ongoing battle with him. But one Saturday morning I heard a rustling noise downstairs, so I got up and when I got downstairs I was surprised to find my son sitting at the kitchen table, dressed, and eating a bowl of cereal. Now mind you this was at 5:30 in the morning. I stood in front of him with my mouth and jaw on the ground because I could not believe that this was my son.

Why was he up this early? Why was he dressed and eating breakfast? He was motivated to do so. You see he was headed to an amusement park with his girlfriend and her family. Because he was motivated, he did not require much in the way of persuasion to get up and get dressed. It was easy for him. The motivation of his heart drove him to do what was necessary to get ready on time.

The truth of the matter is that we are all motivated by something or someone. The things that  motivate us aid in formulating our reaction to God’s will and His purpose in our life. In our story today, we see the comparison of two motivations. The motivation of Sanballat and Tobiah stand juxtaposed against the motivation of Nehemiah. As we look at Sanballat, we find that his motivation was based in selfishness, jealously, and fear. On the other hand, we find that Nehemiah’s motivation was based in an unshakable faith in God and the trust that God was in control of everything.

As you remember in our previous messages, Nehemiah had returned to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem. He was in the center of God’s will and yet he encountered resistance from those who had been in the city and who were its rulers. He could have given up hope but because he was motivated by a higher calling and a deeper commitment to God, he did not give up nor did he give in to the pressures of life even though he would have been justified in doing so. Because of his faith, he was able to endure the testing of his heart.

On the other hand, we have two men who were antagonistic toward the rebuilding of the city. The reason for this was that they had a vested interest in the failure of the city. They did not want the city to succeed. It is noteworthy that Sanballat’s name means “bramble brush – enemy in secret.” It is also important to note, in his day, his name was most often used for a girl’s name. So you can imagine the life he had. He lived with a girl’s name which meant enemy in hiding. How many close friends do you think he had? Tobiah on the other hand had a very spiritual name. His name meant “God is good.” Here is the problem though. Rather than believe in the destiny that had been given him, his life was lived in opposition to what he had been called to. The problem was that he allowed people like Sanballat to distort and destroy His vision of God and of himself.

The enemy of our soul loves nothing more than to force us to live outside the destiny in which we have been called. He is good at getting us to believe the lies and the things spoken to us by others. How sad was the commentary of Tobiah’s life. Rather than living out his destiny he was falling short of and in fact was working hard to impact the work of God negatively. But why is this so? You see I believe it is because his motivation was misplaced. He lived in fear and had placed his trust in Sanballat who was being motivated more by fear rather than trust in God.

Notice the language of our text. We find three things that point to the motivation of Sanballat’s heart. We find that he was displeased with the fact that someone was taking a interest in the condition of the city and the walls around Jerusalem. Here is the clincher, he had been living there and had no concern for its condition until someone else came along to care for the city. His motivation was wrong because his heart was in the wrong place. Listen to Nehemiah’s words and how he described their heart. But when Sanballat the Horonite and Tobiah the Ammonite servant and Geshem the Arab heard of it, they jeered at us and despised us and said, “What is this thing that you are doing? Are you rebelling against the king? (Nehemiah 2:19). Do you see Sanballat’s and Tobiah’s heart here?

They despised what Nehemiah and Israel was doing. He jeered at them while they were building the walls. You see to jeer is “to taunt, mock, scoff at, ridicule, sneer at, deride, insult, abuse, or heckle.” He made fun of Nehemiah and the work to be done. They were also using false accusation. He accused them of wanting to rebel against the king which was far from the truth. In fact, Nehemiah had sought the king’s blessing before he arrived so his desire was far from  rebellion. You see when someone’s heart is wrong or their motivation is misplaced they will resort to tactics that wound and hurt rather than build up. They will seek to destroy others in their path so that they feel better about themselves. So you see the motivation of their heart was disconnected from the truth.

Before we close we must also look at Nehemiah whose motivation and heart was in the right place. He trusted God and we find this in his words. Then I replied to them, “The God of heaven will make us prosper, and we his servants will arise and build, but you have no portion or right or claim in Jerusalem” (Nehemiah 2:20). The motivation of Nehemiah’s heart was his trust in God. He knew that God would cause them to be successful. His motivation was founded in the fact that God was faithful and that He would keep his promises. Remember Jeremiah 29:11 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. It was at this moment that the reality of this promise was about to be fulfilled. God was going to keep His word and that is what motivated Nehemiah’s heart. Nehemiah also believed that God would empower them to fulfill His purposes. God did not lead them to this point in time without seeing the work all of the way through. Nehemiah was motivated by the promise and hope of God.

So what motivates you today? When our heart is not on God we will focus on the wrong things. Jesus reminds us in Matthew 6:21 that where our treasure is there our heart will be. Will we focus on that which is eternal or will we focus on that which is disposable and will be destroyed in the end? The things in this world will be destroyed but that which is eternal will last forever.

The fact is there is much emotion that can serve to motivate us. First of all, we can be motivated by anger. Anger is a poor motivator as anger is often based in hurts and disappointments that come from failed circumstances, broken promises, and wounded spirits. When we are motivated by anger the tendency is that we externalize the anger which results in treating the world and others as our enemy. In our anger, we often become self-righteous and blind to the truth.

We can also be motivated by fear. When we are motivated by fear we tend to lose our ability to think for ourselves. Fear unfortunately begins to drive our decisions and actions. Sometimes fear comes because we have tried and failed before and thus there is a fear in us that prevents us from trying anything again. Someone has said that we are born with two fears. One is the fear of falling and the other is a fear of loud noises. All other fears are learned or developed which means they can be unlearned. Uncontrolled fear binds us and keeps us from ever moving forward in the things of God. Paul reminded Timothy that we have not been given a spirit of fear but love power and a sound mind. Hear his words. For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands, for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control (2 Timothy 1:6-9).

We can also be motivated by passion and lust. The problem with passion and lust is that we desire what we cannot have.We want to consume things for ourselves. James reminds us that the reason there is so much turmoil in life is that the passions within us are at war (James 4:1). We want and cannot have so we murder and fight and quarrel. The result is division and more hurt and pain.

We are also motivated by guilt. Guilt is not nor has it been a good motivator for our actions. Guilt and fear are cousins. When we are motivated by guilt we do not know how to say no. We will do things not because we believe the are the right things to do but because we do not want to upset someone and or we fear rejection. We are fearful of failure so out of guilt we do the things that we do.

Finally, Paul reminds us that the love should compel us to obedience. We should be motivated by love. For the love of Christ controls us, because we have concluded this: that one has died for all, therefore all have died; and he died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised (2 Corinthians 5:14-15). The motivation of our heart will determine our success. When we are motivated by God and His truth nothing can stop us and nothing can hold us back.

The problem with being motivated by love is that we forget or we can struggle to believe that God loves us regardless of what we have done or for that matter not done. We can believe that because we have committed a particular sin that we are no longer loved or accepted by God. You see when we are motivated by fear, guilt, passion, lust, or anger it is hard to have a right perspective of God’s love and therefore it is hard to believe that God loves us. I am reminded of one of the stories that Kyle Idleman shared in his book “Not a Fan.” Let me read the story from the book. Some of you today may be asking that same question of God. Do you still love me? You ask that question because you believe that the stain of your life is too great and can’d be cleaned but if you listen you will hear the emphatic cry of God’s heart. He loves us, Oh how He loves us.

As we focus our attention upon power of Christ to forgive and on the power of His love to redeem us watch this video which features Matt Chandler, pastor of the Village in Texas and John Piper, pastor emeritus of Bethlehem Baptist Church in Minneapolis, Minnesota and the song Oh How He loves Me by the Crowder band. Use this as a time for spiritual inspection. Ask God to show you today what is your key motivating factor in living life. Is it guilt, fear, passion, or anger. Or do you truly love God and desire His love to be manifested in  your life.

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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Ephesians – What Kind Of Lover Are You?

Peninsula Community Church

What Kind of Lover are You?

April 12, 2015

Ephesians 5:25-33 Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church, because we are members of his body. “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church. However, let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband.

I have entitled this message “What Kind of Lover are You?” The purpose of the title was chosen in part to grab people’s attention but to also emphasize the key word in this passage which is love. Language has always been an interesting tool of communication. What and how we communicate often varies depending on what region or area we live in or where we were raised. Think about it. Depending on where you were raised you will order a soda, a pop, or a coke at a restaurant. You will eat a hero, a hoagie, a grinder, or a sub.

The problem with various languages and dialects is that if we do not understand the language we will miscommunicate with others. I can illustrate this in a very personal way. In 1995, I had the privilege to lead a mission team to Morelia, Mexico. While there, I was trying so hard to learn the language and communicate the best I could in Spanish. At the end of dinner, one evening, our host asked if I were still hungry. In my feeble attempt to reply in Spanish, instead of using the word for hungry which is HAMBRE, I used the word for man which is HOMBRE. So, I ended up saying “This was so good that I am no longer a man.” Needless to say, the host and those around the table got a good chuckle at my expense.

As we have noted before, the Greek language was a wonderful language as specific words were used to define specific actions or ideas. By properly defining these words we can understand what the Bible is communicating in a more precise manner. The key word in this passage is love, but if we interpret the word love only through the template of the English language, we can misunderstand what love in this context means. The reason is that the word love is used for almost anything and everything. In regard to the word love in the Greek language, there are three primary words for love. There was the word PHILEO which is brotherly love. There was the word EROS which is a sensual or sexual love. And then there is AGAPE which is the love initiated by God and it is a love that is self-sacrificing. Agape is the word that is used here in this passage. Paul was intentional about using the word Agape and not PHILEO or Eros. He wanted us to love with a love that only God could create and reveal.

In thinking of agape love, the first idea to be considered is that agape love is a sacrificial love. Paul states “Christ loved the church and gave Himself up for her.” He left the splendor of heaven to come as a humble servant to give Himself as the sacrifice for our sin. To live in agape love, we must place not only our wife’s needs before our needs but other’s needs as well. This does not mean that we are not concerned about our needs, it means that we are not self-absorbed with our needs. Paul describes this sacrificial love in Philippians. Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross (Philippians 2:3-8). Jesus’ love for the church is graphically represented through His death on the cross. Our love for our spouse will be best demonstrated through the sacrificial giving of ourselves to them. To be sacrificial means we consider our spouses ideas and we listen to her concerns and then do our best to fulfill those needs where possible. So, are you a sacrificial lover?

Second, agape love is a caring love. Paul proclaims that as the man cherishes and nourishes his own body, he must nurture and cherish his wife. To nourish something is to feed it. This is accomplished by feeding our spouse on every level: physically, emotionally, and spiritually. It means that we are aware and considerate of her feelings. The second idea presented by Paul is that the man is to cherish his wife. The word cherish carries the idea of warmth or kindness. It is used of a mother who holds her baby close to her body. It is the idea of being gentle and caring. When our spouse is wounded or hurt emotionally, spiritually, or physically; we must nourish and cherish them back to health. This is not the time to say to her suck it up and get over it. It is also not a time to ignore her or minimize what she is experiencing.

I have in my hands a violin. Suppose for a moment that this is a Stradivarius violin. I read recently that an original Stradivarius violin just sold for more than 10 million dollars. Let me ask you, how would you treat this violin especially if it were a valuable Stradivarius. Would you toss it around? Would you hand it off to others and let them play with it? Or, would you cherish it and care for it because you realize you have something of value in your hands. Well let me say this; our spouses and loved ones are more valuable than any violin made by human hands. They are a creation of God and that makes them highly valuable. We must therefore treat them as the valuable gift they are. So, are you a caring lover?

Thirdly, agape love is a committed love. This commitment is implied in the fact that Paul states a husband is to leave his mother and his father to cleave to his wife. The two are to become one flesh. They are to be committed to each other. We must understand that commitment is much more than sexual purity even though that is critical. To understand commitment, we must understand that it must be a realistic commitment. Two people on their wedding day may seem to be so perfect but the fact is they will have problems and they will encounter issues after they are married. A true commitment remains steady regardless of what is happening in the marriage. This commitment is also a growing commitment. Our commitment does not run on auto pilot. It must be nurtured. We must also understand that this commitment is a total commitment. We don’t hold anything back. We must include our spouses in every major decision we make. We are a team. So, are you a committed lover?

Fourth, agape love must be demonstrated. Agape love can only be known by the actions prompted by it. We are to love others as we love ourselves. For men, Paul is not suggesting that we learn to love ourselves as much as he is pointing out that men generally already love themselves pretty well. You see it is not the content of our love that matters as much as it is the intensity of our love. Think about this for a moment. What if we approached loving our wives with the same intensity we approach our golf game, our love for hunting, sports, other leisure activities, or our jobs? Would it make a difference? You bet it would. We need to understand that our words and our promises can be worthless. It is our actions that make a difference. Commit to love and keep that love burning bright. So, are you a committed lover?

Fourth, agape love is an engaged love. To be engaged means we seek to protect our spouse and shield them from things that would harm them or cause them to walk in sin. We are not to be passive observers in this process but we are be connected and engaged. The story of Adam and Eve is a reminder of this need. Do you remember who received the word from God? It was Adam. Adam communicated God’s purpose and plan to Eve but, when it mattered most, he left Eve in the lurch and she succumbed to the temptation brought by the serpent. What do you think would have happened if Adam had been the man he should have been and stepped in when the serpent was tempting Eve? This world would certainly be a better place. One way to do this is to establish an atmosphere that leads our spouse toward sanctification and holiness. This is not something that is forced but it is modeled and lived out. We must be engaged in our relationship with our spouses. Our wives especially need to know we are engaged. So, are you an engaged lover?

As we bring this to a close let me ask you. What kind of lover are you? Are you a sacrificial lover? Are you a caring lover? Are you a committed lover? Are you an intense lover? Are you a lover who is engaged? By doing these things you will not be perfect but you will enhance your relationship and strengthen your marriage. Christ was all of these things and more to us. He charted the course for us and He made the way possible for us to become the kind of lover that builds and not destroys. He modeled what it means to be sacrificial and not self-centered.

Before we pray, let me tell you that each of you are a creation of God. You have been bought with a price. You are valuable. No matter where you fall in the love spectrum, you can begin again and start over. That is the beauty of the risen Lord which we celebrated last week.

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

Copyright © 2015 All Rights Reserved Robert W. Odom

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5 Commitments for 2014

Peninsula Community Church

5 Commitments for 2014

January 5, 2013

Philippians 3:12-16 Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. Let those of us who are mature think this way, and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal that also to you. Only let us hold true to what we have attained.

In preparing for this message I began to consider the idea of making New Years resolutions. As you might guess, the idea of making New Years resolutions is nothing new but I wondered where the concept of making resolutions come from. In researching this, I found that the ancient Babylonians made promises to their gods at the start of each year that they would return borrowed objects and pay their debts. If you were the one who loaned an item that would be a great resolution for someone else to make. The Romans began each year by making promises to the god Janus, for whom the month of January is named. In the Medieval era, the knights took the “peacock vow” at the end of the Christmas season each year to re-affirm their commitment to chivalry. (From Wikipedia).

I am sure that each of us has in some way considered the idea of making resolutions going into this new year. Perhaps you have considered losing weight which by the way is the most popular resolution made each year. For others, it could be the idea of being nicer. For others it could be the idea of doing more for others. It could be watching less TV and spending more time in the Word and in prayer. While all of these are good ideas it is interesting to note that 88% of all resolutions made end in failure. It has also been noted however that 22% more resolutions are kept when they are shared with someone else. 

For us as believers, who are passionate followers of Christ, the idea of resolutions can also be a part of our lives. To come to the end of one year and begin another year is very much a time of evaluation and renewal. For me personally, I try to use the week between Christmas and New Years as a time to reevaluate where I am. What are my goals? How did I do with my goals from the previous year? When I was growing up it was a common event to have watch night services where we would close the year with thanksgiving and a commitment to follow Christ with a renewed spirit of trust and faith. 

As I thought about this idea of resolutions, I would like to suggest a couple of commitments for you consideration. Now I will quickly say that this is not an inclusive list. In fact, if you were to be in my place and were sharing this message, you might share a different list and that would be fine. In fact, if I were to preach this same message at some point in the future, I might use a different list. The idea is that this is not an inclusive list but are simple some key commitments for us to consider.

The first consideration is to commit to seeing the miracles and blessings of God around you. This is important for us as we can get sidetracked by the circumstances and cares of life. A heart that looks for the miracles and blessings of God around us is one that is filled with gratitude and thankfulness. There is so much in our world that can pull us down and create in us a ungrateful heart. When we don’t look for the miracles of God around us, our hearts can be filled with grumbling, complaining, and ungratefulness. We see this in the life of the Children of Israel. It is amazing to me that there appears to be a huge cycle of gratefulness and then murmuring and complaining. You see God would meet their need and would provide for them. Miracles were happening all around them, and yet they would fall into a grumbling and complaining attitude. One day they are angry with God. On another day they are trying to get rid of Moses as their leader. But when we commit to see the miracles of God around us we will be less likely to complain and grumble. When we focus on God’s blessings and on what He has done for us, we are more likely to be filled with a heart of gratitude and blessings.

The second consideration is to be less judgmental and more understanding of others. I have been reading a couple of books here lately. One of the books is by Pastor Jack Graham, the senior pastor of Prestonwood Baptist Church in Dallas Texas. In his book, Unseen, Jack makes an observation about his life as he is getting older. He stated that as he is aging, there is a tendency for him to be more judgmental. He commented that he can begin to judge the way others act, what they say, how they dress, and so on. I too have recognized this tendency in my own life. As we get older, we have the potential to believe that we have arrived and can develop “a know it all attitude.” I am sure that I am not the only one with such a mentality as they get older. When we experience a judgmental attitude we can miss out on seeing others for who they are or from understanding where they are coming from and why they do what they do. For me, I never want to become John and Max from “Grumpy Old Men.” These two men are played by Walter Matthau and Jack Lemmon. John and Max have habitual complained and argued so much in their life that they do not know how to live without arguing and fighting and trying to one up each other. While they fought you also realize that inwardly they are miserable and unsatisfied with life. They are grumpy old men. May we never become grumpy old men.

The third consideration is to have a greater commitment to sharing your faith with others. Studies have shown that those believers who share their faith are happier and more grateful for their own relationship with Christ. To clarify, this applies to those who have developed a commitment to share their faith as a lifestyle rather than a legalistic need to accomplish some task so they can check that action off of their spiritual list of things to do. Sharing our faith can come in many styles, ways, and ideas. For example, sharing an encouraging word to one who is discouraged is one way we share our faith. Sharing our faith has as much to do with our attitude as it does our words. When we share our faith with others we are more appreciative of our own relationship with others. There is a principle that applies here that says as we give away to others we understand the value of what we have. We also appreciate what we have in Christ even more.

The fourth consideration is to determine to live as one forgiven and as a forgiver of others. A second book I have been reading highlights this idea of forgiveness. Forgiveness initiates healing and right focus. The story is of Abraham Lincoln who attempted to walk in forgiveness to the best of his ability. Secondly the author rehearsed a story from the civil war that has always been a powerful story in my mind. When the war was over and the surrender documents had been signed, there were a couple of actions taken by the northern army that changed the course of American history. Because of the pain and death exhibited by the civil war, Grant and those under him could have been antagonistic and demoralizing to the southern army. 

After the signing of the surrender documents by Lee and Grant, we see Grant do something that expressed honor and forgiveness to General Lee. As Grant stood on the porch of the McClain home, Grant tipped his hat to Lee as Lee mounted his horse. In those days this was a sign of respect and honor. Even though Lee had been the enemy, Grant recognized that a greater result would come from moving forward with honor more than dishonor. Grant realized that the nation could only heal as forgiveness was given freely whether Lee and the army of the South would ever receive the act of forgiveness or whether they deserved it for that matter. By accomplishing this act, Grant not only released Lee from the past but Grant himself was releasing himself from the burden of the past experiences and the past hurts of the war. Grant was also an example to his troops, as well. For example, John Chamberlain, commander of the 20th Maine, who stood against the charge of the Alabama troops at Gettysburg also showed great honor to Lee and his men. As Lee was retreating from the McClain house, Chamberlain without a thought and in a spontaneous manner called his troops to attention and a salute. It was these acts that began to bring to healing to a divided nation. For us too, the act of forgiveness can begin that process of healing broken lives and broken hearts. Remember, forgiveness is always about the one doing the forgiveness (Matthew 6:12-14). Jesus Himself says that when we forgive we too are forgiven. When we forgive there is a reciprocal spiritual act of forgiveness in us. You see when we forgive others, we are released from our own issues of failure, regret, and guilt. With that said, it is often harder to forgive ourselves than it is to forgive others. We are driven by our guilt, fear and failures than by the wholeness we have through forgiveness. But, forgiving others is the start to forgiving ourselves.

The fifth consideration is to commit to renew or deepen your love for God. As we read the Book of Revelation, we see in the letters to the Seven Churches that one of the complaints against the Church of Ephesus was that they had lost their first love (Revelations 2:2-4). They were no longer motivated by love and by the gifts that God had given them. They were motivated more by legalism and a regimented fulfillment of the law than by God’s love as a motivator. Their actions were not aligned with the love that had been given them and that should be the motivator of their heart. The result was that they were good about keeping the law but the growth of their heart was stunted. They were much like the Israelites in the Old Testament who were condemned for offering sacrifices without the heart to back it up (Isaiah 29:13-14 and Matthew 15:8-9).

Are you ready? Do any of these resonate with you today? Are any of the above doable for you? Are there other prospects for change to make your life more effective for Christ? You can do it. You can change. You can be an effective warrior for Christ.

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