Tag Archives: Peace

Is It Possible to Live in Peace?

Peninsula Community Church

July 28, 2019

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.

One of the deeper questions of life is the question of how one can achieve a life of peace? How does one reach the place where they can live in peace? That is the cry of most hearts. In this passage, Paul defines peace by saying that God’s peace passes all understanding. This is a peace that is there when everything around you is falling apart and the world is filled with torment and difficulty. It is a peace that is achieved not by what we do, but whose we are and who we trust. 

It is noteworthy that the dictionary defines peace as follows. Peace is the freedom from disturbance; quiet and tranquility. It is a mental calm; serenity. It is a state or period in which there is no war or a war has ended. It is the freedom from dispute or dissension between individuals or groups.

It is noteworthy that Scripture suggests there will be no peace in this life. There will always be something that will cause upheaval and turmoil in our life. The kind of peace most people want is just an illusion. It is a fantasy. In Matthew 10:34 and Luke 12:51 we find that Jesus stated that he had not come to bring peace but a sword and division. You see the Jews of Jesus’ day wanted the war and struggle with the Roman government to end. They wanted the factions within their own community to be united, but Jesus reminded them that He did not come to bring peace. Instead of peace, Jesus’ ministry would in fact create more division and more fighting. I believe that today we are in a battle that is not democratic or republican, but it is a battle for the standard that Christ has set for us individually and as a nation. It is a moral battle.

While Scripture gives us the bad news about tribulation in this world and the lack of peace here, Scripture also allows us to see where real peace comes from. Jesus in John 14:27 made this statement. Peace 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. The world considers peace as the cessation of war and disputes but this peace is much more than the cessation of war or dispute. It is the internal peace that comes from deep within one’s soul and within one’s spirit. It is a peace that comes from a deep relationship with the living Christ. 

In John 16:33 we are reminded of Jesus’ words. I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world. The world focused on the outward cessation of tribulation but Jesus focused on the internal cessation of tribulation, so that inwardly we are at peace. That is why in Romans 8:6 Paul without hesitation states For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. That is why Isaiah proclaimed. You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you (Isaiah 26:3).

It is from this perspective and understanding of peace that Paul writes the words of Philippians. He begins this passage with the command that we are to rejoice in the Lord always. Wow, what a statement because there are a lot of things in my life that I do not want to rejoice over. In fact, more often than not I have an opposite response but if I am dependent on Christ for all things and if my mind, my soul, and my spirit is at rest in Him, then I can be comforted with the peace Paul defines. He says it is a peace that passes all understanding. It is a peace that baffles the mind. It is a peace that passes all human capacity to understand. Out of this rejoicing everything flows and is ignited by faith. 

As he continues in this passage we find that Paul states that we are not to be anxious about anything because anxiousness takes our peace away. It is anxiousness that deprives us of our ability to rest in Christ. Anxiousness is a deterrent to our peace and to our ability to be all that He desires of us. When we are anxious, our peace is robbed and our hearts are filled with concern about the future and what is to come. The wording here tells us to stop worrying. Give it up.

The cure for worry is prayer and a spiritual focus on Christ. We are all prone to worry, but the principle applied here is that prayer and worry are mutually exclusive. Prayer and worry do not go hand in hand. To cure anxiousness we pray. The truth is worry will destroy prayer, and prayer will destroy anxiety. In other words, worship and prayer is a divine deliverance from the power of worry. One result of coming to the living God in prayer is that worry shrinks and dies at the feet of Jesus. That is why Paul reaffirms that in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. 

In this Paul gives us an antidote to worry. First, Paul states that we are to pray. Pray! Now that is an amazing idea. Let me ask you, do you take your problems to the Lord immediately or is it a last resort or last ditch effort to secure God’s blessing? How often do we take things to Him after they have become problems? How many times do we take things to God after we have already become overwhelmed or controlled by anxiousness? That is why Jesus commands us to make prayer a priority in our life by seeking the Kingdom of God first. In so doing, all of the things we need will be added to our lives. 

Second, we are go to the Lord with our supplications, e. g. our needs and our concerns. The word “supplication” means to ask humbly and earnestly of the Lord. It means to request of God answers to prayer. It means that we carry to the Lord what He alone can handle and take care of. This is an echo of Paul’s writings in Ephesus 6:18. We catch Paul mid breath when he says that we should be praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication.

This is also a reminder of Peter’s words. We are to release everything to Him because He cares for us and He knows us intimately. Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you (1 Peter 5:6-7). Listen to the Psalmists. Cast your burden on the LORD, and he will sustain you; he will never permit the righteous to be moved (Psalm 55:22).

Thirdly, we are to do so with thanksgiving in our heart. Thanksgiving and gratefulness must be the corner stone and bed rock of all we do. A thankful heart is a grateful heart. A thankful heart is one that recognizes that God is the only one that can provide and care for us. A thankful heart is a humble heart. When you think about it, it is amazing that Peter, of all people, would write these words. The tempestuous and quick tongued disciple is writing about humility but the reality is that he more than anyone else understood this dynamic. He had learned the lesson of humility big time. He did so through the multiple mistakes he made and problems he faced.

It is here that we come to the conclusion of this passage. As we pray, as we bring our needs to God, and as we begin to express our thankfulness, we find that God’s peace comes sweeping into our hearts and minds because we have the heart of God. That is why Paul could say And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. The result of praying, of bringing our concerns to Him, and living with a grateful heart is that we will obtain a peace that passes all understanding. The opposite of worry is peace and the opposite of peace is worry. The peace that Paul presents here surpasses or exceeds our ability to understand peace. That is why the world around us can be falling apart and we can still be at peace in God. We can rest in who He is. 

And finally, the result of praying is that God will guard our hearts and our minds. The word guard is a word that means to put up a garrison. The literal translation of the word is that He will keep our minds and hearts as a well-garrisoned stronghold. What does that mean? Our thoughts are protected. When we are focused on God, our minds will be like a well garrisoned stronghold that will not allow any thought that is not of God to enter and find residence. It also means that the heart, the seat of the emotions, will be protected. 

This is not a magic pill or a magic formula. The idea is that we continue to press into God through prayer. We continue until we are at peace. We continue until worry is dispelled. We become like the man who had unexpected company and did not have bread to feed his visitors which was a huge necessity of that day. To not give his guest bread would have been a great travesty and a social disgrace. He knew his neighbor had bread and he began to knock on the door until he answered and the man gave him what he needed.

Listen to the story out of Luke 11. And he said to them, “Which of you who has a friend will go to him at midnight and say to him, ‘Friend, lend me three loaves,  for a friend of mine has arrived on a journey, and I have nothing to set before him’; and he will answer from within, ‘Do not bother me; the door is now shut, and my children are with me in bed. I cannot get up and give you anything’? I tell you, though he will not get up and give him anything because he is his friend, yet because of his impudence he will rise and give him whatever he needs. And I tell you, 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. What father among you, if his son asks for a fish, will instead of a fish give him a serpent; or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him” (Luke 11:5-13)!

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

Copyright © 2019 All Rights Reserved Robert W. Odom

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The Journey to Peace

Peninsula Community Church

The Journey to Peace

December 24, 2017 

Luke 2:11-14 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.” And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!” 

At Christmas, we often ask people what they would like as a Christmas present and inevitable some will say they wish for world peace. In most cases, what they are asking for is a cessation of all conflict, violence, and war. While this is a noble request, there is a problem. Since the creation of mankind there have been struggles and conflict, and there is no end in sight as long as human beings are in this world.

To understand peace, it would be helpful for us to know and understand what real peace is all about. When we consider the word peace, it is my guess that a variety of ideas come to mind. For example, as noted before, some would suggest that peace is the absence of all conflict. Others, would suggest that peace is not having any problems and being free from stress. Contrary to these ideas, the meaning of peace, from a scriptural standpoint, is not just an absence of conflict but represents a much deeper and richer meaning.

In Scripture, we find two primary words used for peace. In the Old Testament, the word for peace is Shalom, and in the New Testament the word for peace is irḗnē. It is noteworthy that both of these words can mean a cessation of conflict, but both Shalom and irḗnē go beyond a cessation of conflict to mean wholeness and completeness. In John 14:27, Jesus stated, Peace 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. Jesus understood the mindset of the day. They wanted a cessation from conflict, but Jesus was bringing wholeness of mind and heart. Jesus recognized that life will have its issues, but if you seek the kind of peace He brings, you will not be afraid. For that reason, Jesus could honestly tell His disciples not to let their hearts be troubled (John 14:1).

In our passage this morning the angels make a powerful, life changing proclamation. “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!” Jesus came to bring peace but not the kind of peace that most people expected. As with the wise men, most were looking for a warrior/king but they found a baby. Most thought He came to end conflict and war, but He came to make people whole and complete. His mission was to provide the means for spiritual wholeness, so regardless of the circumstances or events that come, there will be peace.

As we look at the concept of peace, I would suggest that Christ came to give peace in three areas of our life. First, we have peace with God. Christ came to reconcile us to God so we would be at peace with Him. Notice the words of Romans 5:1-2. Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. And then in 2 Corinthians 5:18-19, Paul says, All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation.

Through reconciliation, we now have peace with God. We are no longer His enemies. Our relationship has been restored, and we are now whole and complete. We are restored because Christ gave Himself for us. Our sin, all sin, every sin, is covered by the blood of Christ. We no longer live disconnected, disjointed lives. The Greek word irḗnē means to bring together and that is exactly what Christ did, He brought us together with God.

Before Christ, there was no way to span the gulf between us. There was a wall of separation, and there was no way for us, as sinners, to be united with a perfect holy God. We were separated  because of our sin. Our relationship was broken, but He came and died to restore our relationship with God. When we have a right relationship with God, we will experience real peace! Without a right relationship, nothing else will be right. It all begins right here.

Listen to the words of Paul in Ephesians 2:13-17. But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility. And he came and preached peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near.

Secondly, Christ came to give peace within. This emotional peace is the peace of God. When I have peace with God, then I get the peace of God inside me. Paul again is our inspiration in this regard. In Colossians 3:15, Paul states, And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. Here is the deal, God wants the peace of God to rule our hearts. He wants His peace to motivate us, guide us, and determine where we will focus our attention. Listen to this quote by Rick Warren. For those with a broken heart, God gives us comforting peace. For those with a confused heart, he gives us guiding peace. For those with a shamed heart, he gives us forgiving peace. When we have a worried heart, he gives us confident peace. He provides peace for every problem.

Thirdly, He gives us peace with others. The Bible says in Ephesians 2:16, Together as one body, Christ reconciled both groups to God by means of his death on the cross, and our hostility toward each other was put to death. Here is a truth you can take to the bank. If you want to strengthen your relationship with others, like your spouse or your kids, strengthen your relationship with God. The only way to have lasting peace with others is to be united with God. It all works together.

This Christmas, as we sing and talk about peace on Earth, know that God wants to give you real lasting peace in each of these three areas. Peace is an attainable dream, as it is a free gift from God and it involves our inner being but, how do we maintain peace? To answer this question, we must understand our focus will determine our outlook and will determine how we live in peace.

In Philippians 4:4-9, Paul hones in on how peace is worked out in us. Listen to his words. 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. If we do this, the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.

Isaiah 26:3 states You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you. Notice, we have the Holy Spirt to help us focus our mind upon Him. That is where our peace will come and there it will be maintained. Paul in Colossians 3:1-2 states If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. 

When we focus our attention, our hearts, our minds, and all we are in Christ, we will find peace even in the midst of the storms of life. This is seen most vividly in the life of the author of one of the all time great hymns of the faith. In 1870, Horatio Spafford’s only son died of scarlet fever. In 1871, his major real estate investment burned to the ground in the great Chicago fire. Then, in 1873 he was devastated by the news that all four of his daughters had died in a shipwreck in the Atlantic. As he was in route to Europe to meet his wife, who had survived, he was shown the spot in the mid-Atlantic where his daughters had perished. He was suddenly overwhelmed by an rush of the peace of God. With tears streaming down his face, he recorded his feelings.

In that moment, he penned these words! When peace like a river attendeth my way, When sorrows like sea billows roll; whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to say, It is well, it is well with my soul. Why could he say “It was well with his soul?” He was complete in Christ and that served to give him all of the peace he needed, even though he had lost almost everything in his life. So, how is your peace? What are you dealing with today? It begins with a relationship with Him and from there everything else springs forth.

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

Copyright © 2017 All Rights Reserved Robert W. Odom

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The Power of Blessing

Peninsula Community Church 

The Power of Blessing

September 10, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Copyright © 2017 All Rights Reserved Robert W. Odom

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Jesus Came to Bring Peace

Peninsula Community Church 

Jesus Came to Bring Peace

April 2, 2017

Romans 5:1-5 Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.

This week I was watching Fox News and they reported on a new app available to people who have annoying coworkers. You know the kind who interrupt us with stories that waste our time and cause us to be annoyed because we cannot get any work done. The APP is called Nope. You download it to your PC and when of these annoying people come around you, you simply click on the icon and it will call your phone with a message and commands to follow which makes it sound like it is an important call. The goal is to bring peace to your surroundings. Don’t you wish real peace was that easy. Just click an icon and peace would be ours.

As we look at this passage, we see three key benefits of following Christ. First, we have peace with God through Jesus. Secondly, through Him we have obtained access by faith into His grace. Thirdly, we endure the difficulties of life because of the hope we have that has been produced by His love. What a powerful foursome of God’s blessing: peace, grace, hope, and love.

While all of these are critical, this morning I would like to focus primarily on the concept of peace. I am sure you have seen the bumper sticker that says “No Jesus, No peace; Know Jesus, Know peace.” The idea presented here is that without Christ we cannot know real peace. That is a true statement but too often we attempt to gain peace without Christ. Without argument that is definitely an impossibility. From the time of the Garden of Eden until now, mankind has sought to gain peace in so many ways. The problem is that too often these ways of finding peace leave us empty and desiring more of peace.

The reason for this is that too often we have a faulty view or understanding of peace. Therefore, to understand real peace we begin with the most noted word in the Hebrew for peace. The word is “shalom” which can mean “peace” but it also can mean “completeness,” “soundness,” “welfare,” “tranquility,” “contentment,” and “friendship.” More directly, the word shalom refers to peace with God through a covenant relationship. The covenant relationship has been established by God and has been fulfilled in us by the work of the cross and our acceptance of Jesus as the master of all peace.

Here is the reality of peace for the Jewish people and it should therefore be a reality for us. Peace means more than a cessation of hostility and bad circumstances. The Jews of Jesus day had unfortunately made peace all about freedom from the oppression of Roman domination. This was so far from God’s intent for peace and yet it is for that reason that Jesus made a statement that has baffled some. In Matthew 10:34-35 Jesus stated Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law.

What Jesus was saying is that the Jew’s definition of peace was off and incorrect. You see peace is not about a cessation of hostility or problems, even though the Jews believed this was the case. You see rather than bringing outward or earthly peace, Jesus was in fact the lighting of rod of dissension, trouble, and division. This reaction to Jesus was a result of the motivation of those around Him and the rejection of His message. The bottom line was that just because of who He was and what He stood for, He would cause people to react with hostility and rejection. He would, in fact, be the source of more unrest and unsettledness than already existed.

If we are not careful we can also miss the power and purpose of Christ’s mission. If read between the lines we find that Jesus was communicating that He was not interested in setting up a Kingdom in Jerusalem. He was, however, very interested in setting up a kingdom in our hearts where He would reign supreme and peace would be evidenced within us regardless of the circumstances and problems around us.

A classic example of this is found in the New Testament. In Mark 4:35-41 Mark relates a story about focusing on the problems more than on Jesus and the peace He brings. On that day, when evening had come, he said to them, “Let us go across to the other side.” And leaving the crowd, they took him with them in the boat, just as he was. And other boats were with him. And a great windstorm arose, and the waves were breaking into the boat, so that the boat was already filling. But he was in the stern, asleep on the cushion. And they woke him and said to him, “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?” And he awoke and rebuked the wind and said to the sea, “Peace! Be still!” And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm. He said to them, “Why are you so afraid? Have you still no faith?” And they were filled with great fear and said to one another, “Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?”

Notice a couple of things about Mark’s story. First, Jesus had said to them that they were to go to the other side by boat. This was God’s will for them. He was going with them to the other side of the lake. They would make it to the other side. The second thing that happened is that a storm arose and began to rock the boat. They were afraid and called out to Christ who was sleeping in the stern of the boat. He was at peace because He knew they would make it to the other side. His disciples on the other hand were not at peace. Notice Jesus’ word to them. “Where is your faith?”

It is almost like Jesus is saying “look I am in the boat with you. Do you think I will honestly let something happen to you?” With Jesus on board the odds were good that they would make it to the other side. You see, I believe the problem was that they had their eyes more on the storm than they did on Jesus. Too often we get caught up in the problems and the cares of life to the point that we get our eyes off of Jesus. When we get our eyes off of Jesus, we loose our peace because our focus is driven by the problem and not by the one who can resolve the problem.

Remember when Peter got out of the boat to walk on the water (Matthew 14:28-31). Remember that he takes several steps toward Jesus. He was doing what no other human being had done before or since. Peter was walking on water. There were no stones under his feet There was no bridge. There was no trick photography or magical illusion happening. He was walking on water. He was doing the impossible. Imagine the picture with me. Peter is doing so well but then He looks down and sees the waves lapping at his feet and in he falls.

Why does this happen? It is because he took his eyes off of Jesus and began to look at the waves which brought fear and anxiety to his heart. Imagine this, if Peter not taken his eyes off of Jesus he would have walked all of the way to Jesus and back but he became distracted and fell into the water. The amazing thing is that Jesus did not push Peter down or leave him to his own devices. Jesus reached down and picked Peter up. That is the power of Christ’s peace is us. When we become aware that we are living out life by our own means and we get our eyes on the circumstances around us, we fall short of God’s glory but He Jesus does not condemn us. He reaches down as far as He has to to pick us and restores our peace.

That is why Paul wrote the words he did in Romans 5. Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us. We attempt to maneuver through life on our own and when the waves of difficulty come we are are captivated by the problem rather than by Jesus. The reality is however is that He reaches down to us wherever we are and he lifts us up because He has given us His grace to stand and stand tall. The winds may blow and the waves of difficulty may be lapping at our feet but we can remain focused on Jesus. In so doing, we can make it through every difficulty. We can arrive at the moment in our life where we can actually rejoice in the difficulties we face because we are walking in His peace and in His grace. We walk in the unmerited, undeserved, unwarranted gift of God, His grace which brings peace.

How does this all happen? What is the basis of this reality for us? It is that God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us. It is the love of God that motivates us and constrains us toward a life of peace and one that is full of grace. As we focus on the Lord’s Table today, I am moved by the fact that God’s work through His son has brought us peace. This peace is a result of Him bringing us forgiveness of past sin, present sin, and all future sin. Through that forgiveness, we receive His peace which sustains us no matter what we go through.

Why? Andy Stanley states that we receive the peace of God so that we might be at peace with God. Peace with God paves the way to peace with ourselves and equips us to make peace with others. The bottom line is this. He wants us to focus on Him more than we do our problems. He wants us to understand that when we walk in peace, we walk in completeness and wholeness. Peace is possible and peace can be a reality in our lives.

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 – Putting on the Gospel of Peace

Peninsula Community Church

Ephesians – Putting on the Gospel of Peace

May 31, 2015

Ephesians 6:14-15Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace.

So far we have looked at the armor of God and have reviewed the following pieces of the armor. First, we looked at the belt of truth to understand that we must walk in truth and not in the lies that are being continually perpetrated by the evil one. Last week, we looked at the breastplate of righteousness. In this we saw that God has forgiven us and has made us righteous through Christ’s sacrifice on the cross. Today, we will move to the next piece of God’s armor required for spiritual battle. Today, we will look at putting on the shoes of the gospel of peace.

Once again, we see in this passage a practical illustration of a common aspect of life in Paul’s day. The church at Ephesus understood the necessity of wearing shoes in their day and they understood visually what it meant for the warrior to wear shoes in battle. In battle, there were many issues that the soldier might face that made it necessary to wear protection on their feet. It might be the heat of the sand. It might be the jagged rocks and other sharp debris found in the soil. It might be something as simple as a twig or some other shard that would penetrate the foot and cause pain. Without proper protection there was also the possibility of a strain or sprain that could sideline the strongest of warriors, distract the warrior, or cause him to be ineffective in battle. For the warrior to be effective, it was critical for the soldier to wear protective shoes on his feet. This was critical as the soldier’s shoes allowed the warrior to step freely without fear in the face of battle. 

It is interesting that doctors have reported that the most neglected parts of the body are the feet. Rather consciously or not, too often, we neglect to care for our feet until there is a problem. One of the best methods to care for the feet is to wear the right type of shoe. For the warrior his sandals were made of layers of leather up to 3/4 inch in thickness and were studded with hollow-headed hobnails. In other words, they were like cleats. The shoe of the warrior covered not only the feet but also covered the leg to about half-way up the calf and at times up to the knee. The shoes worn by the soldier were secured by leather straps or leather laces. The purpose of his shoes was to protect his feet and allow him to grip the turf underneath his feet. The result was he had greater ability to stand his ground in battle.

In our society, we have a different view of shoes. For us shoes are more of a fashion statement than they are a mode of protection. In fact, it is noteworthy that a Consumer Reports National Research study found that women in America own an average of nineteen pairs of shoes while 15% of women surveyed stated that they have thirty pairs of shoes or more. Additionally, according to Glamour Magazine, the average woman will purchase 469 pairs of shoes in her lifetime. This will total more than $25,000 being spent on shoes in one’s lifetime.

In looking at our text, we find that the shoes discussed here are more than physical shoes, they are spiritual in nature. When dissecting this verse we find that the actual Greek translation of this passage would be, “Let the shoes of your feet be the Gospel of peace, to give you a firm footing.” Stability comes by being fitted with the Gospel of peace.

Another interesting concept of this passage is that there is a call to readiness. This insinuates that the soldier does not wait for the battle to put on his shoes. He puts on the shoes long before the the battle begins. Spiritually, the idea that is communicated is that we must be ready for battle by having our feet shod with the gospel. That is we are ready for battle because we have the gospel in us.

These words have a faint echo of words spoken by Paul and by Isaiah. Listen to Paul’s words in Ephesians 2:17. Paul stated And he came and preached peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near. For through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father. Isaiah complimented this thought when he stated How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him who brings good news, who publishes peace, who brings good news of happiness, who publishes salvation, who says to Zion, “Your God reigns (Isaiah 52:7).

To understand the Gospel we must understand that the Gospel is the good news. It is the good news that brings peace. For some who read Paul’s letter it seems strange because the question is posed “how can we have peace in the midst of the battle and warfare?” Why is this? The greatest reason for this peace is that the enmity between God and man was overcome. As believers, we have chosen to fight on the side of God and therefore God is no longer our enemy. Conversely, if we fail to accept God’s gift of salvation, we are in essence fighting against God. Think about it. If choose not to accept Christ, you are in essence fighting against the God who created the heavens and the earth, the God who called fire down from heaven, and the God who sent a storm to redirect Jonah’s life. This is the same God who opened the earth and swallowed the rebellious children of Israel. I am not sure about you but I do not want to be on the opposite side of God.

When I was in Junior High School in Bridge City, Texas, I was regularly picked on by some of the older students. I wasn’t the only one as these bullies chose to pick on anyone smaller than them. One day, I was pressed up against a locker in the hallway of the school by one of the bullies when I heard this deep voice from behind the crowd. I looked up and it was my cousin’s boyfriend. He was the starting all American linebacker for the varsity football team. She had shared with him how these kids were bullying the younger kids and he came to our rescue. He grabbed one of the kids and held him by the collar with his feet dangling off the floor and said a few choice words to him. It was something like “You mess with my friend, you miss with me.” You see in life we have been bullied by the evil one, but on the cross Christ took the enemy by the throat and said “you mess with my friend, my child you mess with me.” Through the cross we have been repositioned from a state of enmity to a state of friendship and partnership.

Listen to what Paul proclaimed in Romans 5:1-5. Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.

The good news is that through Christ we are on the right side of the battle. It is for that reason that Paul calls this the Gospel of peace. When you think about it, peace is an interesting emotion in that we can have peace about some things and yet be anxious and fearful about others. Very few of us experience a general peace about life and still fewer have a peace that reaches the inward man. And yet that is the purpose of Christ’s peace.

I love what Dallas Willard had to say in this regard. He said “Even in the case, through no fault of my own, there must be a struggle between me and others, there does not have to be a struggle within me.” He continues “I may have to resist others, for some good reason, but even so I do not have to make things come out right. I am not the one in control of outcomes. I do not have to hate those whose course of action I resist, or even get mad at them, and so I can always be at peace within myself as well as towards others.” He continues by saying that the greatness of God and the love of God forms my peace, and at the same time my love and my joy. Job of old had many worrisome questions in the midst of his troubles but when he beheld God they simply did not matter. That is why Isaiah could honestly proclaim You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you (Isaiah 26:3). Look at the parameters established here. You will be in perfect peace when your mind is on Christ because you trust Him with everything in life.

Nothing in this world can destroy my peace or rob me of peace even though in our world today there is so much that can steal our joy and peace. The economy is still fragile. There are wars and rumors of wars. There are shootings and murders taking place daily. The drug epidemic has escalated and is getting worse by the day. The moral fiber of America is being shredded on a daily basis. But with all of this, I am reminded of what Jesus spoke to His disciples. Peace 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’ (John 14:27-28).

To understand this we must understand that the Gospel of Peace cannot and must not be separated from the author of peace who is also the author of Gospel. To have real peace, we must come to know the real giver of peace. His name is Jesus. He came so that I could live a real life. Not some legalistic or false spirituality kind of life but one filled with God’s love and His peace. I do not know about you but I yearn for that kind of peace and that kind of life. It is available to us as we put on the shoes of peace.

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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Christmas is “Good News”

Christmas is “Good News.”

Luke 2:10-13 – And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.” And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!”

Jesus came into the world to bring good news to all mankind. The good news banishes fear and gives everlasting peace by way of Salvation and not a part from it.

This word for Good News was EUONGELION. When the men of the village were off in battle the warriors would often send messengers back home to share news with the village. Most often the news was “good news” as they had a desire to keep the morale and the hopes of the people alive and fresh. In many cases the messenger would bring news that victory had been won over their enemies or the messenger would proclaim the death of an opponent.

Some historians say that the Jews would greet each other with the phrase “Have you heard any EUONGALION?” You see they longed for a Messiah, one who would save them. In them was this longing to see the coming Messiah.

That is why the words that the angel Gabriel brought to the shepherds that day was so important. Gabriel came as a messenger to proclaim the Good News that victory had been won and that peace was coming to the world. Victory would be won and peace would come through the birth of the baby Jesus would be their Messiah.

While the God News brings so much into the life of the believer please note two important results of the Good News:

  • It banishes fear – fear not
  • It gives everlasting peace – peace on earth among those with whom he is pleased.

God has created us in such a way that fear is a wake-up call. It arouses awareness of danger; it puts us on high alert. Yet it can also do just the opposite, overwhelming us and diminishing our alertness. Neuroscience links fear to the amygdala in the lower, primitive brain. This small structure scouts for trouble and in detecting it, sounds an alarm and jerks multiple neural cords. As it reacts quickly to the threat, it ignores fine distinctions and uses generalizations. Its strength is rapid processing, and its weakness is lack of precision. With extreme fear, noradrenaline flushes through the body, initially producing intense vigilance, but then flooding the brain and riveting attention on the object of fear. Now the fearful person can hardly shift attention elsewhere. Tunnel vision occurs. Fear takes over, overwhelming the imaginative capacities and advanced reasoning. The fearful one becomes locked into the present and loses the ability to envision something other than what is now threatening. Reality is pruned to the senses, to the synapses mediating fear, to the paralyzing moment.

But Christ comes as the Good News to banish fear. The angels said fear not. How often are we gripped with fear and other such emotions that tend to deter us from living out life as we ought to?

Fear has been a part of mankind’s psychic seen the fall of man in the Garden of Eden. But in reality nothing has changed today! People are still caught in the grip of their fears, and this is even true during the Christmas Season, a time that should be joyous, happy and totally Christ-centered. We fear not having enough money, of not meeting everyone’s expectations; we worry over meals, over who will be there and who will not. We just seem to fear everything.

But Jesus came to banish fear, e.g. that unhealthy fear that binds us and prevents us from enjoying life.

Three times in the Christmas story Jesus spoke the words, “Fear not.”

  • Mary – Luke 1:30 – Do not be afraid – This spoke to the fear of God’s providence and what He is working out in us. Mary could have been afraid of what people would think of her and she could have been afraid of rejection which often occurred in that time when one conceived a baby out of wedlock.
  • Joseph – Matthew 1:20 – Do not fear to take Mary as your wife – This spoke to the fear of immediate obedience. Joseph was called on by God to accept this assignment of being the father of Jesus. While he had every right to leave Mary and refuse to marry her, He did the right thing.
  • The shepherds – Do not fear God’s presentation and call – These men were the outcasts of the land. The shepherds performed the lowest of duties and responsibilities. God came to the lowest so that there is a recognition that all can come to Christ.

The Good News gives everlasting peacepeace on earth among those with whom he is pleased. This is a peace that cannot be manufacturer but it must be received as a gift from God. This peace is not an absence of problems or difficulties but it is the recognition that God is present regardless of the problem.

Illustration of Peace – Long ago a man sought the perfect picture of peace. Not finding one that satisfied, he announced a contest to produce this masterpiece. The challenge stirred the imagination of artists everywhere, and paintings arrived from far and wide. Finally the great day of revelation arrived. The judges uncovered one peaceful scene after another, while the viewers clapped and cheered. The tensions grew. Only two pictures remained veiled. As a judge pulled the cover from one, a hush fell over the crowd. A mirror-smooth lake reflected lacy, green birches under the soft blush of the evening sky. Along the grassy shore, a flock of sheep grazed undisturbed. Surely this was the winner. The man with the vision uncovered the second painting himself, and the crowd gasped in surprise. Could this be peace? A tumultuous waterfall cascaded down a rocky precipice; the crowd could almost feel its cold, penetrating spray. Stormy-gray clouds threatened to explode with lightning, wind and rain. In the midst of the thundering noises and bitter chill, a spindly tree clung to the rocks at the edge of the falls. One of its branches reached out in front of the torrential waters as if foolishly seeking to experience its full power.  A little bird had built a nest in the elbow of that branch. Content and undisturbed in her stormy surroundings, she rested on her eggs. With her eyes closed and her wings ready to cover her little ones, she manifested peace that transcends all earthly turmoil. 

This painting won as it illustrates the fact that peace is not the absence of turmoil but the recognition that God is there.

The scriptures themselves echo this message when in Isaiah 26:3 states that you (God) keeps him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you because he trusts in you. This peace is beyond human understanding, as we keep our minds stayed on Jesus and our eyes fixed on Him. Such peace is in a heart that is trouble free and unafraid regardless how difficult the trials and circumstances of life may be.

The fact is no matter the trouble, hardship, persecution, famine, nakedness, danger you face, by the power of His Spirit living in you, you can continue to abide in His peace. You can face death, persecutions, the darts of Satan, present difficulties, and future uncertainties confident of His abiding presence and sustaining grace.

Philippians 4:5B-7 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.

Are you afraid today? Do you lack peace? Pray and ask God to touch your life and bring you to a place where you can trust Him, for it is in trusting God that we minimize fear and dread in our life.

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