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Devotion to Cause Greater than Ourselves

Peninsula Community Church

April 30, 2017

Devotion to Cause Greater than Ourselves

Acts 2:42-47 And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. And awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles. And all who believed were together and had all things in common. And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need. And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.

I always love to look at the anatomy and how we are so fearfully and wonderfully made. For example, in the thigh there are four muscles that make up what is called the Quadriceps or the Quads. These four muscles interact with one another to serve to move the legs. We usually don’t think much about the Quads until we try to run or workout without stretching. It is at that moment or just after that moment we are reminded they exist. For immediate treatment of the Quads they say you should use the R.I.C.E. treatment plan for healing (rest, ice, compression, and elevation). To prevent injury and to bring healing to the church, we also have a treatment plan of Biblical teaching, fellowship, meals together, and prayer.

In our passage, today, we see how the early church was devoted to these disciplines. The word devoted means to love, to be loyal, or to be enthusiastic about a person or cause. The disciples were devoted to these disciplines because they had an insatiable desire to draw closer to Jesus and to one another. The disciples were enthusiastic about being guided, built up, and strengthened individually and also as a local body of believers.

With that in mind let us take a look at these disciplines. The first of these is the apostles teaching. The apostles had lived with Jesus and had personally experienced the words, life, and ministry of Jesus. For that reason, they could speak with authority and power. When they spoke they did not speak by hearsay but they spoke the truth of the gospel which is the good news.

Today, their teachings are presented in the gospels and the books of the New Testament. Their words where the truth of the story of Christ and were presented by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit! These words were powerful then and they are just as powerful, today. These words serve to give us guidance and direction. They serve to correct negative and unhealthy issues in our life. They serve to encourage us and empower us to serve in the mission of Christ more faithfully.

For the disciples, the word of God was nourishment to their soul. For them, the Word was not just to be read or memorized but it was to be lived out each and every day. Without the word of God in us we begin to die spiritually as one would die without daily nourishment. Now granted there is much in this world we can eat, but by eating that which is not good for us, we have a unhealthy outcome. The old saying is “We become what we eat.” That is true about the eating the word of God. We must have a healthy diet of the Word and then must live out the word. It is not enough to just read the word. As Scripture states in We must be doers of the word and not just hearers.

As in that day, today there is no lack of teaching. There were many who offered teachings about Jesus that were based in lies and misunderstandings. We hear a lot about fake news in our media today. In the disciples day there was a lot of fake news. There is no exception to that in our day either. Today, there are many ministries and many people who are not being nourished by the truth of the gospel. They are being fed lies and half truths which are based on man made laws and legalism. Too many are dying spiritually because they are feeding on an extremely watered down version of the gospel. Too often, individuals tend to pick and choose which of the doctrines of Jesus they will follow and obey. And, too often many would choose to believe the lie rather than the truth which sets us free. The problem is that when we water our doctrine down, we will not grow the way we should. We will not be focused on the right issues. We will actually be in more bondage than in freedom when we believe a lie or a half truth. Our energy as believers will be zapped from us. So for that reason, may we be faithful to the doctrine of Christ and His word.

The second of these disciplines is that they continued in fellowship. Fellowship was not just a good thing, it was a necessity. Through fellowship, the early church encouraged each other, built each other up, and cared for one another. In the New Testament Church there was a sense of community. They shared life together and they shared their possessions so that no one lacked what they needed when there was a genuine need. It is noteworthy that fellowship did not just occur in the church but outside the church. Fellowship took place in the marketplace, on their jobs, and in their homes.

True fellowship is a powerful weapon that can be used against division in the body and the attacks of the enemy. Strong, stable churches are made up of those who desire fellowship with Christ and with one another. It is for this reason that the writer of Hebrews gave this insight. Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near (Hebrews 10:23-25).

Do you see what he is saying? Encourage one another! Stir one another to good works! That is fellowship at its best. And let me tell you there is so much in this world that is looking to discourage us and to knock us down. That is the reason that we are encouraged to not forsake meeting together as believers of Christ. It is in meeting together that true fellowship is experienced.

For this reason it is understood that fellowship is more than just an activity. It is more than being social. It is not a superficial friendliness. We can be in a room filled with people and yet not have fellowship. True fellowship comes from the word “koinonia” which means “to partner, or to share in common interests.” “Koinonia” is a deep association. What the disciples understood was that an unattached Christian is vulnerable and to live an unattached spiritual life is impossible. The quest for us today is to be devoted to Biblical fellowship.

The third discipline considered is that they continued to break bread together. They shared meals together regularly. Even in communion in those days they enjoyed a meal together. It was a feast.  Have you ever considered the power of eating a meal together. It breaks down walls and it brings people together in ways not considered before. In his book “A Meal with Jesus: Discovering Grace, Community, and Mission Around the Table,” Tim Chester stated that Food matters. Meals matter. Meals are full of significance. “Few acts are more expressive of companionship than the shared meal. . . . Someone with whom we share food is likely to be our friend, or well on the way to becoming one.”

Food connects. It connects us with family. It turns strangers into friends. It is noteworthy how many times Jesus was having a meal or there was an event that involved food in His life. Some would say He was a good Christian because so much of what He did was centered around food. He turned water into wine at a wedding feast. He fed 5000 and then 4000 respectively. He was accused of eating with sinners. After his resurrection, he prepared the disciples a breakfast of fish and bread. He plucked corn on the Sabbath so His disciples could eat. In fact, the communion elements we take are the Bread and the wine. Meals together were important to Jesus and they should be important to us as it has a way of bringing us together.

Meals are a way to reach those who are isolated and disconnected from the church. Meals are a way for us to reach the lost and disenfranchised. People will join us for a meal when they might refuse to do anything else. Around the table people feel more open to talk and share life. Around the table people are more open to share their heart. So may we continue to share life around the table of fellowship.

The fourth discipline was they continued in prayer. Prayer is a powerful discipline. The disciples continued in prayer because they knew that prayer was a tool for change. In prayer things change, but in prayer we change as well. Prayer can move mountains and prayer can touch the heart when nothing else works. Prayer is more than a ritual, it is a lifestyle of connection with God. It is communication with a living, powerful God. May we be devoted to prayer.

As we bring this to a close, I want to remind you that the result of the disciple’s devotion to the apostles doctrine, fellowship, sharing meals together, and prayer was that they experienced joy. There is nothing that brings more joy than being in fellowship with others. There is nothing that brings more joy than sharing the doctrine and teachings of Jesus. They experienced life in a new way by coming together. They experienced a wholeness by celebrating Jesus together.

By living out these disciplines they also experienced growth in the church. Here is a fact. People are attracted to a healthy body. People come to Christ when they sense that the church is a place of healing and wholeness. This was the atmosphere in this new church and it must be the atmosphere in our church today.

So how are we doing? How is our fellowship? How is our meal times? How is our desire for doctrine? How is our prayer life? I encourage you to inventory your life and have the courage to change where necessary. Fall in love with God’s word again. Don’t isolate yourself. Have a meal with someone this week to encourage them. And finally, renew your commitment to prayer. You will be amazed at what can happen when we continue in these disciplines. We too will experience joy and spiritual growth. Are you ready?

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

Copyright © 2017 All Rights Reserved Robert W. Odom

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Living Faithful in a Messed Up World

Peninsula Community Church

Living Faithful in a Messed Up World

July 17, 2016 

Luke 18:1-8 And he told them a parable to the effect that they ought always to pray and not lose heart. He said, “In a certain city there was a judge who neither feared God nor respected man. And there was a widow in that city who kept coming to him and saying, ‘Give me justice against my adversary.’ For a while he refused, but afterward he said to himself, Though I neither fear God nor respect man, yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will give her justice, so that she will not beat me down by her continual coming.’” And the Lord said, “Hear what the unrighteous judge says. And will not God give justice to his elect, who cry to him day and night? Will he delay long over them? I tell you, he will give justice to them speedily. Nevertheless, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?”

Good morning! I would like to begin this message with a question. How many find that in light of the news and problems in our country, our community, and the personal issues you might face that there are times where you struggle to keep the faith and to live victoriously. As we listen to the news it seems that all we hear is negative. We struggle to know who to believe and who we can trust. We are also faced with so much corruption in government and around us that it baffles the mind. And then we get news that a loved has died and or they have received a serious medical diagnosis. Then flashed across the screen is the killing of more than 80 people celebrating the French Independence. The result is that we walk in fear, doubt, and insecurity rather than in faith.

 

As we look at the passage before us we find that Jesus, as He does so often, uses a story or parable to teach a spiritual truth. This time He speaks about a persistent widow who comes to an ungodly and unloving judge to present her case to him. She had been abused and had been treated unjustly by someone in her life. She was not a “happy camper” as life had cast a cruel blow on her. Her problem was that she had an adversary against her. How many of you feel you have an adversary or adversaries in your life? Bad news, health problems, lost trust have assaulted us until we feel helpless and all we can do is cry out for help. We have a tendency to search for help and do anything for help even it is the wrong thing.

In this case the only one she could call on was this judge who was ungodly and did not respect men. When she approached the judge she was persistent in her request for help. As a result, the judge finally gave in and honored her request to give her justice. The purpose of this story is that Jesus is making a comparison between the ungodly and non compassionate judge and a loving, compassionate God. His point was to show us that if an ungodly man can show that much grace and compassion to one that is persistent how much more will God love us and show us compassion. A second lesson being taught is that Jesus is encouraging us to be persistent. Don’t give up so easily. Don’t lose your faith as it is the basis of all we do.

It is noteworthy that at the end of the parable Jesus proposed a critical question. He questions whether or not He will find anyone faithful when He returns. Sadly, faithful people who really trust God and live for Christ day in and day out are hard to find these days. Jesus is questioning is whether or not His children will be found committed and dedicated to the cause of Christ? This is not just a rhetorical question but is one based on His discussion with the disciples in Luke 17. In Luke 17, Jesus details the mindset of the end times generation. Jesus compares the coming of the Lord to the time of Noah’s day. They were eating, drinking, and enjoying life for all of the wrong reasons with all of the wrong motives. They did not care about God and they did not care about the future. They were living hedonistic lives where it did not matter what they did as long as the flesh was being satisfied. There was no faith in God. Just as in the day of Noah, the greatest question of our time, is not conservatism versus liberalism or Democrat versus republican. It is whether men can live without God and that question, it now appears, will be answered in our own time.

Just this week I received word that a pastor I respected was ask to step down from the ministry he led. He had been the founding pastor and had seen the church grow to several thousand. In his farewell address, he noted that he had come to the place in his journey that he had begun to trust alcohol as a source of strength more than he trusted God. He had in essence become an alcoholic. I am not saying that alcohol itself is wrong but it can begin to control one’s life and make one numb to life and faith, if we do not keep it in the proper perspective. Why would Jesus be so concerned about our faith? You see what we put our faith in is what we begin to focus on. What we begin to focus on begins control us. You see this pastor began to trust the alcohol more than he trusted God. Rather than trusting God we begin to trust others, new philosophies, and things to help us.

It is noteworthy that Jesus deals with the proposed question he asked before He ever asks the question. I have been told that a good lawyer will never ask a question he does not already know the answer. Jesus was a master at teaching us. While he asked the question about faithfulness, at the end of the passage He ultimately gives the answer on how to live faithful in the first verse. Jesus begins the passage with this. “And he told them a parable to the effect that they ought always to pray and not lose heart.” Two things will help us remain faithful. Prayer and keeping one’s heart focused on God.

First, let us realize that to avoid faithlessness we must always pray. We must have a committed prayer life. Just as the woman who was persistent with the ungodly judge and unloving judge we should be persistent with God. This does not mean that God answers prayer just because we bug Him to death but He answers because He loves us and knows what is best for us. This is the very point that Jesus is making. If an ungodly and unloving person can do the right thing how much more can a good gracious God do.

Throughout scripture we are encouraged to pray without ceasing. In Romans 12:12 Paul tells us to rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. In Ephesians 6:16-20 he tells us that in all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one; and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints, and also for me, that words may be given to me in opening my mouth boldly to proclaim the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains, that I may declare it boldly, as I ought to speak. Then again in Colossians 4:2 Paul challenges us to Continue steadfastly in prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving. How do we overcome in a faithless world? We do so by continuing to pray. You see by praying we turn our focus on God and His ability to answer our prayers to see us through every situation.

Secondly, Jesus encourages us not to lose heart. I loved Ronald Reagan as president. He was a master at the one liners that spoke volumes. One such line was “Evil is powerless if the good are unafraid.” You see the enemy’s desire is to intimidate and cause us to walk in fear. By walking in fear our effectiveness is diminished and our faith is shaken. The idea of losing heart is not a new topic. 2 Corinthians 4:1 says therefore, having this ministry by the mercy of God, we do not lose heart. 2 Corinthians 4:16-18 states that we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. 2 Thessalonians 3:13 As for you, brothers, do not grow weary in doing good. To lose heart is to lose faith so to avoid losing faith we should not lose heart. That may sound circular but it is true.

So how do we avoid losing heart. Look at these three things in these passages. My ministry is from God, so I don’t have to be discouraged when I feel fruitless and ineffective. Secondly, even though my physical man is dying, my heart is growing in faith and so I do not have to be discouraged no matter what comes. And finally no matter what I am called to, I am challenged to not grow weary but to stay focused on God’s calling in my life.

As we close, let me suggest a few things we can do to remain faithful. First, find some good news. While it may seem that there is nothing but bad news, that is rarely the case. Look for positive stories to lift your spirits. Sometimes we have to turn off the negative chatter. Let me ask how much time do you spend watching the news or reading negative stories about things going on in our world. Let me be clear here, I am not suggesting that we isolate or stick our head in the sand, I am saying however that we sometimes are discouraged by the overdose of negative news. Instead, I would suggest that we fill ourselves with that which is positive and good.

Second, read the Good News. Our faith is a story of hope even in the midst of dark times. Spend some time reading Bible passages about hope and resurrection. Or read through one of the gospels to be reminded of how Jesus brings hope in our struggles. The Bible is replete with stories of the impossible. These stories are great faith builders.

Third, give thanks for what you have. In the midst of difficult times, there are still things for which we can be thankful. Take a few minutes to consider all the wonderful ways God has blessed you. No matter what is going on in your life there is much to be grateful for and celebrate.

Fourth, serve someone. While we may not be able to do much about world issues like disease or terrorism, there are problems in your community where you can be part of a solution. Find places in your community to serve people in need. Seek and you will find. You will find those who need help and you can be the difference.

Fifth, don’t forget that God is still in control. He is still the king and He is still Lord. Regardless of what is going on around us He is still in control.

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

Copyright © 2016 All Rights Reserved Robert W. Odom

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Strongholds – Boundaries

Peninsula Community Church 

Strongholds – Boundaries

April 3, 2016

James 4:1-10 What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you? You desire and do not have, so you murder. You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel. You do not have, because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions. You adulterous people! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God. Or do you suppose it is to no purpose that the Scripture says, “He yearns jealously over the spirit that he has made to dwell in us”? But he gives more grace. Therefore it says, “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double- minded. Be wretched and mourn and weep. Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you.

As we continue our study on the strongholds that pursue us and enslave us I want to look at a specific area of truth this morning and it is what I will call a boundary mentality. A boundary is a line that marks the limits of an area. It is a diving line. It is also a limit of a subject or sphere of activity. Therefore boundaries are established to aide in understanding one’s limitations in terms of what they do, how they do it, and where. In the Old Testament, particularly, we find that God established boundaries so the Children of Israel would know their limitations and what they could or could not do. These things were established for their benefit and not their harm. As a parent we set boundaries for our children so that they would be protected and would be kept safe. One of the boundaries we set was that they could not play in the street. Why was this boundary set up? It was because we knew that playing in the street was dangerous. We also knew that crossing that boundary could result in negative consequences.

The fact is boundaries are necessary in our lives and we all have them in some shape or form. Boundaries are necessary because they give us guidance and they establish limits so that we know when we are crossing the line into sin, unhealthy relationships, making poor decisions, and so on. The law of God and the Commandments of God are boundaries that have been established to give us the ground rules. They were established not to bind us or take away our fun. They have been established to give us life and liberty.

But even in the best of circumstances what has been designed for our good can become a trap for us. So there can be a problem associated with boundaries, if we are not careful. You see the problem at times is that we allow the boundaries we establish to begin to define us. The result is that too often we are defined more by what we cannot do rather than what we can do. The fact us our boundaries must never define us. We must be defined by relationship with Christ.

One problem with setting boundaries is that too often we use boundaries to management our sin rather than allowing God to change our heart. I have often said that it has been easier for us to establish a law or in this case a boundary than it it is to deal with the real issues of the heart. We can have as many rules and regulations we want but we will still struggle because the heart has not changed. God is after a heart change and not boundaries. When we try to manage our sins, the tendency is that we become more legalistic than we should be. The tendency is that we focus more on the boundaries and what is right or wrong rather than focusing on God. While trying to live for God, we in essence live with a fear of sinning so that we can never be free to be what God has called us to do. I have shared before that I grow up in a legalistic environment. Rules were established to control us and prevent us from sinning. There was no bowling, no skating, no movies, no cards, no dancing, and so on and so on. What a relief later in life to know that I was not going to be condemned for watching a movie or playing cards.

The root of the problem is that boundaries, like the law of the Old Testament, point us toward what sin is and it defines sin but the law does not and cannot save us from our sin. Deception and bondage come when we believe that if we tow the line and do everything right then we will accepted by God. Jesus warns us about this kind of mindset. He reminded us that there would be many who will stand before God that will be able to describe their list of accolades and abilities. Even though they have an impressive resume of successes, the sad commentary was that they did not have a personal relationship with the very one they were trying to get approval and acceptance from. Jesus reminded them that many will cry Lord Lord and yet God will deny them entrance into heaven because they were not true passionate followers of Christ (Matthew 7:21). With that said I want to be clear that God does want us to obey His commands but we must never do so apart from a relationship with God.

A second problem with setting boundaries is that too often it too easy to move and change the boundaries. This is especially true when we no longer like a particular boundary or rule. The result is that we no longer have a fixed focus on truth in our lives. If we believe the boundary is no longer appropriate or it no longer serves its purpose we simply move, remove, or redefine the boundary. When we are with Michelle’s family one of the things we love to do is play games. But we always have a problem. There are those around the table that at some point during the game who decide to change the rules. They change the rules because they do not like the rule or they feel the rule is not benefitting them.

We see this being played out in our society in a big way today. Drugs are now being legalized. All forms of sexual sin are being normalized. Rebellion and anarchism are being praised as a way to overcome those we do not agree with. Our boundaries and our moral footing have moved and have been changed. Think about this if you will. It is very similar to dieting. I am sure that none of you have done this but I have. You say I will have an extra donut now and then tonight I will eat less but that never seems to happen. The problem is that once we have moved the boundary of what is acceptable we have the tendency to allow other things in as well.

This also reminds me of a story I heard a number of years ago. A group of boys in Philadelphia went into a local store and switched as many price tags as they could. They never stole anything but they simply switched the price tags on as many items as they could. When morning came, the store opened as usual but something was different. Both the customers and the store owners were shocked to find that the prices had been changed and the price tags had been switched. That happens to us. The price tags have been switched and the boundaries that once stood firm have been moved. The enemy of our souls loves to switch the price tags so we no longer value what God values and in so doing we move the boundaries.

The third problem with setting boundaries is that too often we live as close to the boundary as we can. By living on the edge we can be easily pushed into sin or into a wrong pattern of thinking. The closer we live to the boundary, the greater the temptation is to be sucked into a lifestyle or a sin that is knocking at our door. The other problem is that when we live at the edge of the boundary the lines of right and wrong begin to blur. It is here that we fall prey to the lies, the accusations, and the doubts of the enemy. It is way too easy for the lies, accusations, and doubts to become a part of who we are. In essence, we flirt with sin and we flirt with stepping over the line. All it takes is a slight nudge by the enemy to cause us to step over the edge.

And finally, the greatest problem with setting boundaries is that when we live near the edge of the boundaries we set there is a tendency to live further from God. The tendency is to focus more on the boundaries and what we can do and what we cannot do rather than trying to live close to God. In other words, rather than living close to the edge, lets find out what God is saying and do that. Remember our verse this morning that says“God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double- minded.

Let me ask you today, do you have a security in the lines you have drawn. Or, do you rest in the power of Christ to accomplish His will in your life. Please note, I am not asking or even suggesting that you remove the boundaries you have set. I am simply saying that your trust must be in God and not in the boundaries we set. What if we changed our focus? What if we focused on Christ who offered us the cross and the resurrection. Let me say this and I hope you hear this. The walk of a Christian is not sin avoidance. It is Christlikeness.

Rather than boundaries we should ask what would honor God? What would cause His glory to be manifested in and through my life. You see setting boundaries focuses on forgiveness and that is so important but Christ died for more than our forgiveness. Too often we want the removal of guilt and not the work of Christ in us. Know this Christ died for more than the removal of guilt; he has called us to live a vibrant abundant life filled with joy, peace, and love. We are more than forgiven, we are called to Christlikeness. It means that I allow God into every area of my life. I receive victory because I am forgiven but I live in victory because I seek to be Christ like. You see the gospel has to be more than guilt removal it has to be a way of life. It is “life abundantly lived.” So are you living abundantly or are you living close to the boundaries?

So what do we do with this? First, what boundaries have you set in your life? Do you focus more on the boundaries that have been set than on Christ who died and gave Himself for us? Second, I suggest that you refocus your life to move closer to Christ than living on the edge. You will find that the temptation toward sin will be diminished. I am not saying that it will be annihilated but the temptation to be pushed over the edge is diminished. And finally, if we want to know how to live closer to God we must know the word. We read it. We memorize it. We live it. That way we can be victorious in all we do.

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

Copyright © 2016 All Rights Reserved Robert W. Odom

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Where You Pray

Peninsula Community Church

Prayer Series: Where You Pray

February 7, 2016

Matthew 6:5-8And when you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites. For they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, that they may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you. “And when you pray, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do, for they think that they will be heard for their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.

In the movie, the War Room, we find the movie opens with Clara giving a overview of her husband’s life as a soldier. If you remember the opening scene, the commanders and strategists are in a room that is filled with maps and war plans. The idea presented by Clara is that when a nation is at war they will develop strategic plans on how to fight battles and in essence how to win at war. This is accomplished in the war room. As the movie progresses we find the focus of the movie is on having a personal “war room” where we can strategize and set in motion particular plans on how to win the battles we face each and every day.

Jesus referred to this place as the closet of prayer. Jesus stated that when we pray we are to go into our room or closet and shut the door. The idea from the heart of God is to have that place where we can be alone with Him and can pray without the hindrance of outside influences. Note that the passage states that the reason we pray in secret is that God rewards those who pray in the secret place and He does so in the open. The point is that what is done in secret will be revealed in the open.

With that said, let me make a comment or two about prayer. First, the location of our closet of prayer is not as important as just having a place to pray. You see some people might have a specific room that is set aside solely as a place to pray but the reality is that life does not always allow this to occur. The truth is that our secret place can be our den. It can be our favorite chair. It can be at our dinner or breakfast table. For some it might even be our car. The idea purposed here is that we need a designated place where we have our “prayer time,” “a quiet time,” or what ever else you might call it.

Secondly, in the movie we saw that Clara, Elizabeth, and even little Daniella had a wall where they would post their prayer requests and they post answered prayers. We too need a wall or a place where we can post our prayer requests. It might be a physical wall. It might be a journal notebook. It might be a file on your computer. There is no right or wrong way to do this. The idea is to have a place where we can list, track, and remember our prayer requests. It is also a place where we remember what God has done in us and what He has accomplished through our praying. This is important because we can easily forget what God has done.

Thirdly, while we need a location that we set aside for our prayer time we must also have an understanding that we should walk in a spirit of prayer. It is possible to believe that once we have prayed in our closet, we can check that off our list and go on about our day. The problem is that we can confuse the place of prayer with the heart of prayer. The place of prayer prepares us for the day before us and focuses our attention on the day ahead. It also focuses our attention on our need for God. The heart of prayer maintains a steadfastness in prayer throughout the day.

Finally, we meet in a designated place because we have a relationship with God. Our prayers must be founded in the relationship we have with God. The key is to never just check prayer off of our list. In our closet of prayer we must know that we are literally meeting with the King of Kings and the Creator of All Things. Today is Valentine’s Day. Other than Mother’s Day, Valentine’s Day is one of the busiest times for restaurants. Why is that? It is because we want to be together with the one we love. We determine their favorite place and we make sure we have a reservation and off we go. We do this because we love our spouse and we want to bless them. God wants to meet with us and He wants to talk with us. That happens in our closet of prayer.

But why does God call us to a place of secrecy? Let me give you three reasons. First, shutting the door shifts the focus off of others. Remember the problem with the hypocrites is that they loved to be the center of attention. In our closet of prayer we do not have to impress any one, imitate any one, or worry about being judged by someone else. In our closet of prayer we can simple focus our attention on God.

Listen to the words of Proverbs 29:25. The fear of man lays a snare, but whoever trusts in the Lord is safe. Here is a fact that we can take to the bank. God is not going to judge you when you pray. He is not going to criticize you. He is going to love you and draw you closer to His heart. In our closet of prayer we can be our self. We can cry. We can laugh. We can even sit and do nothing because we are in the presence of God and in His presence we can be real and authentic.

The second reason to go into our closet of prayer is that shutting the door shifts the focus off of self. You see when we are in our closet of prayer we become less self-conscious and more God-conscious. You see in our private times of prayer God will reveal more of who we are, who He is, and how to walk in the light of His Word.

If you are like me, too many times when I enter my closet of prayer I become distracted and restless. You know how it goes. Suddenly I start to remember all of the things I need to do. I remember things that I have forgotten to do. In prayer we discover that our minds are easily divided. Even in our closet of prayer we can catch the plague of wandering thoughts. But in having a secret stillness before God we can deliberately shut the door to the distractions of life. In so doing, we shift the focus away from ourselves which brings us to the last point.

The third reason we go into our closet of prayer is that shutting the door shifts God of our thinking onto His place of priority. In our society today, we are constantly reminded that we should silence our phones so that we do not distract others. In churches, movie theaters, and while driving we are encouraged to put our phones down. I know that for Michelle and I we have had to make a conscience decision to turn off our phones, iPads, and computers at the dinner table. As a society we have an addiction to our phones and it seems we have to always have them near us because we might miss a call, text, or Facebook post. But when we want to show respect and honor we shut off our phones and pay attention to the one with whom we are with. The same applies as we enter our prayer closet. We must remove all distractions. When we go into our prayer closet we must eliminate the noise in order to focus on the face that is in front of us.

Closet praying is critical. God not only hears what is prayed in secret but the implication in this passage is that He is in the secret place with us. The secret place of prayer represents the presence of God in our life. It is the place we go to meet with God. It is true that God is present everywhere but in the secret place of prayer we find God meeting with us, personally.

Jesus who is our great example of how to pray showed us the necessity of prayer and getting alone with God. In Matthew 14:23 we find that after he had dismissed the crowds, he went up on the mountain by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone. Jesus the God of all creation had to take time to be alone with the Father. If he needed time to be alone with God, how much more do we need time to be alone with the Heavenly Father.

In Luke 6:12 we find that Jesus went out to the mountain to pray, and all night he continued in prayer to God. It is noteworthy that after he prayed all night he went out to select the disciples who would follow him throughout His ministry. You see even Jesus needed God’s direction before he made such a great decision. How much more do we need to pray and hear from God?

In Luke 5:15-16 we find that Jesus prayed after he ministered to the great crowds. But now even more the report about him went abroad, and great crowds gathered to hear him and to be healed of their infirmities. But he would withdraw to desolate places and pray. Even Jesus needed prayer when He was in ministry. He took time to withdraw to quiet places to pray. He focused on prayer because He needed to hear from God. He wanted to be connected to the Father and He did that by way of prayer.

In Luke 22:41-44 we find Jesus praying for the will of God to be achieved in His life. “Pray that you may not enter into temptation.” And he withdrew from them about a stone’s throw, and knelt down and prayed, saying, “Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me. Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done. It is noteworthy that Jesus, the God of all creation, prayed for God’s will to be fulfilled in His life. How do we advance God’s will? We do so by praying for God’s will and purpose to be accomplished in us.

As we close today let me share a quote by Oswald Chambers. This was his August 23rd entry in “My Utmost for His Highest.” He stated Unless you learn to open the door of your life completely and let God in from your first waking moment of each new day, you will be working on the wrong level throughout the day. But if you will swing the door of your life fully open and “pray to your Father who is in the secret place,” every public thing in your life will be marked with the lasting imprint of the presence of God.

Shutting the door and spending time alone with God is a practice we need. Shutting the distracting doors of the mind and our hearts will allow us to focus completely on God. By shutting the door of prayer we open our hearts to His will and His power. What a difference we will make. What answered prayers we will see occur.

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

Copyright © 2016 All Rights Reserved Robert W. Odom

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Stewardship of Our Relationships

Peninsula Community Church

Stewardship of Our Relationships

June 29, 2014

I John 4:7-12 Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love. In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us.

Before we begin this morning let me rehearse what we have discussed so far in our series on stewardship. In our study, we have come to understand that stewardship means that God owns everything and we are simply the caretakers of God’s provision. We are to use what God has given us to provide for our families and to expand the kingdom of God. That is an exciting proposition. 

Secondly, we have come to understand that while our finances and our possessions are in essence not ours, they belong to God but God allows us to enjoy them, and to honor Him in what we have been given. With that in mind, we are also reminded that it is our spiritual duty and responsibility before God to give back to Him. Scripture speaks of the tithe as the template of measurement for giving to God. It is of note that when we give to God out of what He has blessed us with, we will reap rewards and blessings. Look at the following Scriptures with me. Please note these are not my words but are directly from God, Himself.

In Malachi 3:8-12 we find the following: Will man rob God? Yet you are robbing me. But you say, ‘How have we robbed you? ’ In your tithes and contributions. You are cursed with a curse, for you are robbing me, the whole nation of you. Bring the full tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. And thereby put me to the test, says the Lord of hosts, if I will not open the windows of heaven for you and pour down for you a blessing until there is no more need. I will rebuke the devourer for you, so that it will not destroy the fruits of your soil, and your vine in the field shall not fail to bear, says the Lord of hosts. Then all nations will call you blessed, for you will be a land of delight, says the Lord of hosts. 

Too often in this passage the focus is on the negative but let’s focus on the positive. When we are faithful God will pour out a blessing upon us. The devourer will be rebuked so that you will have a fruitful life and ministry. You will be called blessed because of this. Please note that you will be called blessed by the nonbeliever as well as the believer. 

Again in I Corinthians 9:6-8 we find the words of Paul. The point is this: whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work.

How awesome is that we honor God in our giving and we are blessed as a result? How many believe that is God’s word? We give, God honors His word, we are blessed, and those around us are blessed as well. You see when we honor God, the blessing is never just for us. It is to be shared and will be shared without us knowing it.

Another issue we touched on is that we are to be good stewards of God’s creation as creation is a testimony to who God is and what God wants to accomplish in us and through us. By stewarding God’s creation correctly, we in essence point to God’s creative power and His sustaining power in us and in the world. We are reminded that God’s creation is in itself a testimony of God’s ability to point back to himself and to reveal who He is.

And last week, we looked at the stewardship of the Gospel. We saw that God desires that we share our faith with others. We do so to expand the kingdom of God and to reach people for Christ. We have the joy and the privilege to be God’s messengers of hope in a dying world.

This week I would like to take some time and look at the stewardship of our relationships. This may seem a strange thing but this is critical as we are living in the age of social media. In today’s environment too often we measure our security and self-worth by the number of people we have friended on Facebook rather than the value of the relationships we have. Because of social media we are more connected than ever, but studies have shown that the value of those relationships in many ways can be devalued if we are not careful. For some people this has been a blessings as they can now open up lines of communication that were not available before. For others it is a distraction from regular face-to-face or verbal communication. 

The fact is we have been given relationships and connections with others to serve one another and to honor God through those relationships. There are a number of ways to serve one another and to steward our relationships. How do we do this? 

We find ways to connect with one another. We go to dinner with one another. We communicate with one another. We do things together. One of the complaints I hear often in the church is that “I never get invited any where.” If you have made that statement have you considered that you could do some inviting on your own. Maybe God is calling you to have some folks over. This is the positive of the small groups here at PCC. If we do this right, there will be official groups that are promoted by the church and there will be spontaneous groups that get together to fellowship and to discuss God’s blessing and His word on their life. They will go to the movies. They will go the beach. They will go to a park. They will do life together.

We pray for others. How often do you pray for those with whom you are in relationship? Do you pray for them or do you have the default response of saying “I will pray for you” only to never do so? Here’s another a big question for you. Do you spend more time talking about and criticizing others than you do praying for them? When we are talking about and criticizing others it is easy to find fault with them. It is so easy for us to enter that realm of seeing the speck in others but miss the log in our own eye. I have found that criticism is contagious. Have you heard a criticism of someone and at first you don’t see it but then you continue to hear the criticism to where you begin to believe it.

Let me ask you and I do not need a verbal answer, how much time do you pray for others? How much time you spend praying for the leadership team of PCC and the ministries of PCC? How much time do you spend praying for that person on your job that drives you crazy? Or, that person next door?

We find ways to bless others. When we are in relationships, we find ways to bless others. This is true in the marriage relationship, it is true in the work relationship, it is true in the community we live, and it is true with our church family. We look for ways to bless others and not curse them. We look for ways to minister to them that builds them up and encourages them in the ways of God. Perhaps it is a card. Perhaps it is a text message. Perhaps it is word of encouragement in the hallway or the foyer of the church. Perhaps it is meeting a need in another’s life. Perhaps it is meeting a need in a way that no one else knows about. 

We forgive one another. When we are in relationship with others we must keep a short list of offenses and wrongs we have against another person. We must be able to walk in forgiveness. You see God has called us to forgive as we have been forgiven. Let me ask you how much have you been forgiven of this morning? How much did you deserve that forgiveness. It is not by chance that God placed Matthew 18 and others like it in the Bible. These passages call for us to give forgiveness and to receive forgiveness because there is freedom in forgiveness. There is freedom in letting go of the hurts and the pain of the present and the past. 

Paul honed in on this idea when he penned these words. Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. (Colossians 3:12-14).

This is a powerful scripture. It encourages a Christian lifestyle and Christian character to be revealed in each one of us. Notice what we are to put on … “Compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness and patience.” If you have a complaint, find a way to forgive which is most often a choice we make. How do we do this? Our motivation is a recognition of God’s forgiveness for us. That is our motivation. 

We should encourage one another. For God has not destined us for wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us so that whether we are awake or asleep we might live with him.Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing. (1 Thessalonians 5:9-11). We need to encourage one another when we see someone doing what is right in God’s sight. We need to encourage that one who has gone astray to do the right thing as well. God has planned for our gloomy days. One tool he uses is encouragement. As we encourage one another we are blessed, restored and renewed. So let’s look for ways to bring an encouraging word to others.

 

© Copyright 2014 All Rights Reserved, Robert W. Odom

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James – Asking for Prayer

Peninsula Community Church

July 28, 2013

James – Asking for Prayer

James 5:14-15 Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer of faith will save the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven.

Notice the responsibility and the chain of events evidenced in this passage. A person who is sick, must first recognize they are sick. They take the responsibility on themselves to call on the elders of the church to anoint them with oil. The elder(s) responds by praying for them, but it is the prayer of faith that heals them. Please note that this does not mean that the elders are to be callous and not reach out to folks it simply means that if we need prayer we must seek it.

It is interesting to note the words used for “sick” here in this passage. The first word for sick is the word “asthenei” and means weakness. It references a sickness but more so of the kind that is evidenced in weakness or a lack of strength. While the word can be translated as a sickness, it can also be translated as a spiritually weakened condition. 

The second word used in this passage is the word “kamnonta.” it also carries the idea to be sick. It also connotes a sense of physical weariness. The idea here is that James equates being sick with physical weariness and spiritual weakness. 

While we call upon the elders to pray for us, we find that later in this passage healing is also a community event as we confess our sins to one another. The confession of sin is one avenue by which we are healed. For example, the act of forgiveness and then living in forgiveness can lower one’s blood pressure, reduce one’s heart rate, reduce possible heart issues, restores serotonin levels in the brain, and stabilizing one’s emotional outlook on life. This is a result of acting and living out forgiveness. But, lets save this for another sermon for now

As we look at this text, we must understand a couple of things. First, when we anoint with oil but the oil itself carries no healing properties. It is simply a symbol of the Holy Spirit who initiates forgiveness and brings the healing. The oil was used to anoint leaders such as the King in the Old Testament. We also find in the New Testament that oil was thought to have medicinal value. So it was when one was sick they were anointed with oil. In the case of the king, he was not dabbed on the forehead but it was poured over them so that it ran down their whole body. 

We see evidence of this in Psalm 133:1. David compares the unity in the church to the anointing of David. Behold, how good and pleasant it is when brothers dwell in unity! It is like the precious oil on the head, running down on the beard, on the beard of Aaron, running down on the collar of his robes! 

On the other hand when the oil was used for medicinal purposes, the oil was swabbed over the wound or the area of sickness. 

While these may be true, we must understand that the oil itself has no healing quality per se. We anoint with oil as an outward expression of dependence on the Holy Spirit to heal and restore. We could say that the anointing with oil is similar to that of the bread and the juice used in communion. The elements have no power in themselves but they point to and represent the forgiveness and healing that is available through Christ.

Second, we must note that the elder’s prayer is no more special than anyone else’s prayer as we are all called into righteousness through the death and resurrection of Christ. We see this in the reference to Elijah. James notes that Elijah was just a man who was obedient to God and who was willing to be used by God for His good. To somehow believe that the elders prayer is more potent or more powerful is to elevate him to a role of the priesthood. It is also causes one to miss the New Testament view of prayer in that every believer’s prayer has power. 

As we know in the New Testament Christ came to dissolve the priesthood as the only priest we need is Christ himself. He also established that his followers are a body of priests.We see this is 1 Peter 2:4-5 As you come to him, a living stone rejected by men but in the sight of God chosen and precious, you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.

Too often we are dependent on someone else’s prayer when we have all the prayer we need and all the power we need. 

Third, the action proposed by James should not be taken as some kind of formula that automatically works without considering the spiritual condition of our hearts and the purposes proposed by God. Just because we do all the things detailed here does not mean that we are guaranteed to be healed. Too often, we do not experience healing because we do not confess sin in our lives. To walk in repentance is to experience a change heart or mind that leads to a change of action. The problem is that we want the healing without the righteousness which is right action. 

For example, I know people who have issues with their lungs. They ask for prayer continually and yet they continue to smoke 2 to 3 packs of cigarettes a day. It is my belief that God does not have to bring the healing unless they are willing to change the actions that have brought the illness to them in the first place. When they live in disobedience and they live contrary to God’s word, God is not obligated to heal. God will not cast his pearls before swine. Now this does not mean that everyone who is sick is sick because of a sin in their life. That would be a judgement on our part and one that is warned against by God. 

This relates back to James 2:18 when James says You have faith, your works will express that faith.

If these are true then why do we pray and do what James has detailed? First, the prayer of faith is an act of aligning one’s self to His word, His will and His ways. When we are out of line with God’s word, will and ways we can pray and he will not answer because we pray amiss as recorded by James in an earlier passage.

Second, the act of calling on the Elders is an act of submission and an act of humility. It is to acknowledge that we need help. You can’t do it alone. It is also a recognition that where two or three agree on a issue it shall be done in the name of Christ. We are living in such an independent society where we don’t believe that we need anyone or anything in our life. 

The idea of calling on the elders is a gesture of obedience but it is also a gesture of submitting to those who are over you in the Lord and to those who are called to care for your soul

Third, notice that he calls on the church to confess their sin to one another. It is in that act that healing comes as well. We focus on the prayer of faith but we miss the confession of sin. We must choose wisely who we will share our confessions with.

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Core Values that Drive My Life

On November 7th we officially arrived in Delaware and began our ministry at Peninsula Community Church. This has been an adventure. It has been one which has seen God’s hand at work and His grace in action in so many ways. We are so excited to be here and to serve as the senior pastor of PCC. It is my belief that if we are faithful to God’s calling and obedient to His will that we will see His glory revealed in and through PCC.

In this blog today and over the next couple of weeks I want to share with you my philosophy of ministry. I will begin with what I consider the core values of my life. The goal of this is for you to get to know me better as we serve God and reach the communities of the DELMAR peninsula together.

Core Values that Drive My Life

Centrality and authority of the Word of God – The Scriptures are the unchanging authority that guides and directs all I do. My desire is to rightly divide the Word of truth, apply that truth to my life and then allow it to become alive in my heart by living out that truth in all that I do as a passionate follower of Christ.

Prayer – All that is done in my life and ministry must be birthed and launched in prayer. Without prayer I am powerless to live a life devoted to Christ and I will also be out of fellowship with the living God.

Worship – Living a lifestyle of worship is as just as important to me as the actual act of worship. My goal is to be the same person during the week that I am on Sundays or in a church setting. As John 4:24 states my desire is to worship God “in spirit and in truth.”

Team Work/Partnership – The work of the ministry must be a team effort. Therefore, I am called to be an equipper of the saints so that the work of the ministry can be accomplished. The result will be that the body will become a place of unity. In unity, we become a dwelling place for the presence of God. I live by the motto that says build great people and you will build a great ministry. It is always people first.

Right Priorities – In all of life we must set proper priorities so that we are not entrapped by the cares of life. For me, it is God first, followed by family and then ministry. My fear is that I will be guilty of winning others but lose my family in the process.

Man on Mission – I prefer to be “on mission” rather than just doing missions or ministry. I recognize that I am called to reach those in my community and within my sphere of influence. I am called to be God’s ambassador and therefore will faithfully represent Him by developing loving relationships and by reaching out to others who are unchurched/unsaved and need the hope of Christ.

Transformation of Character – I recognize that I am on a journey of growth and transformation. The goal is to be like Christ. I can never stop growing or else I will die spiritually. I also realize that I have not arrived at full maturity yet but am growing and being renewed day by day.

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