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It’s a War Out There!

Peninsula Community Church

September 8, 2019

Daniel 10:11-14 And he said to me, “O Daniel, man greatly loved, understand the words that I speak to you, and stand upright, for now I have been sent to you.” And when he had spoken this word to me, I stood up trembling. Then he said to me, “Fear not, Daniel, for from the first day that you set your heart to understand and humbled yourself before your God, your words have been heard, and I have come because of your words. The prince of the kingdom of Persia withstood me twenty-one days, but Michael, one of the chief princes, came to help me, for I was left there with the kings of Persia, and came to make you understand what is to happen to your people in the latter days. For the vision is for days yet to come.”

Throughout history there have been many great battles. Many of these battles changed history and redirected the destiny of the world. When I think of great battles, I think of the battle of Waterloo, Gettysburg and Antietam in the Civil War, Yorktown in the Revolutionary war, Normandy in WWII, and many more. Yorktown was particularly interesting as this victory was won by a group of poorly organized and untrained men who had an overwhelming desire to achieve freedom for the fledgling nation called America. Their enemy was more powerful and better equipped but they won because they had heart and they had vision. 

As we look at this part of Daniel’s story we find that it is really a story about spiritual warfare and victory that comes from God alone. As we review the story, we understand this is truly God’s story. As I have noted so many times before, the Bible is a story of God’s redemption. While Daniel is just one of the characters God used to bring about the vision of redemption for those in captivity, it was really God’s story. God’s plan had always been to redeem Israel and He was using Daniel to set the stage for that work. Prophetically, God had promised Israel that they would return to Jerusalem and that Jerusalem would be restored as a city and Israel as a nation.

As we pick up this story, we find that Daniel had been praying. He had been praying persistently. He had been praying defiantly. He had been praying confidently. He had faith in His God and He trusted God big time. The problem however is that Daniel was not getting an answer to his prayer. He had prayed and nothing was happening. For many of us we might have given up, but Daniel did not. He continued to pray, and he continued to reach out to God. He trusted God more than anything else or anyone else. His trust was not in his prayers but in the God to whom he was praying. He knew that God would answer in His time and in His way.

At this point in the story, we find that the angel of God appears. Although Gabriel is not directly mentioned in this particular verse, there is an assumption that this was Gabriel as he was the angel God sent to deliver critical messages. Also, we believe this is Gabriel because we find that Gabriel was quick to attend to Daniel’s need in Daniel 9:21. It is noteworthy that the name Gabriel means “God is my strength.” The angel speaks and the words he speaks are powerful and important. The message he shares is a message for us today as much as it was in Daniel’s day.

Notice the first words spoken by Gabriel. Gabriel says that Daniel is greatly loved. He is not just loved, he is greatly loved. Gabriel communicated God’s love for Daniel. God always wanted the best for Daniel in every area of his life, including answered prayer. In this communication, Gabriel is saying that the reason for the unanswered pray is not that Daniel was not loved, but rather that God had a plan for Daniel and the answer had already been set in motion. Too often the enemy makes us believe that because we do not hear from God, we are somehow not loved by God. We can feel forgotten when our prayers are not answered.

Gabriel speaks words of life to Daniel. He let him know that his prayers were being answered. His prayer had already been answered, but the answer was being detained. Notice that Gabriel gave two reasons for the answer to prayer and he gave one reason why the prayer was delayed. The reason Daniel’s prayer was being answered is that Daniel had set his heart to understand and that he humbled himself. His prayer was being held up because there was a battle in heaven.

One of the things that is acknowledged by Gabriel is that Daniel had an understanding of faith and the power of prayer. There is much in life that we do not understand but that must not stop us from praying. How refreshing it is to know that God wants us to understand Him and His word. There is nothing more confusing and heartbreaking than not understanding what God wants from us or being confused about His purpose for our life. Daniel was experiencing dreams and He had been placed before the king at this time to be a servant of the Kingdom of God. Daniel needed understanding and he prayed for that. 

It is also noteworthy that Gabriel praises Daniel for his humility. Daniel had executed a level of humility that had not gone unnoticed by God. The truth is no one else sees or knows our heart, but God sees us and He knows us. He knows our attitude and He knows our heart. He sees us and knows us better than we know ourselves. Many times we are judged and criticized by others but God judges the heart because He knows us and He knows our every thought. 

Know this, God hears our prayers as soon as we pray them even though we do not readily see the answer. We have also been assured through Scripture that God knows our needs before we ask (Matthew 6:8). Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him. You see the Pharisees believed that number of words, the repetition of words, and length of one’s prayer would get God’s attention. While that was their belief, the best way to pray is through humility of heart and honesty before God. 

So often God is working behind the scenes and is accomplishing a great work that will be manifested through us and on our behalf. He is at work when it seems that things are dark and we are struggling. God never sleeps nor does He slumber. We need to understand that when we pray God hears our prayer, but sometimes there is a battle that erupts and the answer seems to be afar off. The battle which began in heaven and was reinvigorated in Genesis 3 is still being waged today. It is a battle of what our view of God will be like. That is one of the greatest battles we will face. Does our view of God change when we do not see prayer answered? If our view of God is distorted through unanswered prayer, the enemy of our souls will work overtime to stop our prayers from being answered. He knows that in so doing too many times we will turn from God as our source and provider.

When we pray, sometimes the answer seems to avoid us. There are many reasons for this. Sometimes our prayers are not answered because there is sin in our hearts. When there is unconfessed sin, God is not obligated to answer our prayers. He will answer, but He is not obligated. Sometimes our prayers are not answered because we are asking from the wrong motivation. That is what sin does. It leads us to ask with the wrong motivation in our hearts. James 4:3 states“When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.”

Sometimes our prayers are not answered because of relational issues. Likewise, husbands, live with your wives in an understanding way, showing honor to the woman as the weaker vessel, since they are heirs with you of the grace of life, so that your prayers may not be hindered (1 Peter 3:7). This does not mean that we are responsible for the way our wives or others for that matter act, but we are responsible for how we love our wives and how we love others. When we do not honor our spouses, God is not obligated to answer our prayers. 

And then there are times when our prayers are not answered because there is a battle being waged. This is what happened to Daniel. He prayed and his prayer was delayed. Notice that Daniel was not even aware of the battle, but it was happening none-the-less. God is fighting on our behalf even when we do not see it or realize it. This battle was taking place in the heaven-lies. For twenty-one days Michael the Archangel was doing battle on Daniel’s behalf. He was fishing on Daniel’s behalf and he won. Here is the deal, if you are a child of God you need to know that God is fighting for you. He is dispatching His angels on your behalf to conquer what you face. It may take a day. It may take a week. It may take 21 days. It may take a month. What matters is that we keep praying and in due time God will bring the answer we need. 

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

This passage is critical for us. Notice the words here. “I have come because of your words.” Put that together with the words in verse 11: “I have been sent to you.” The point is that God answered Daniel’s prayer as soon as he began to pray three weeks before. From the first day Daniel humbled himself before God, his words were heard. The bottom line is that Gabriel had come to Daniel because of Daniel’s words or in other words his prayers. Know this, you are important to God and He is answering your prayers. You might not see an answer right away. You might be losing hope, but keep praying. Keep holding on. God is working on your behalf. He may have even dispatched angels to fight for you but He is working and His purposes will be accomplished. Let us pray. 

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

Copyright © 2019 All Rights Reserved Robert W. Odom

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Mysterious Encounter!

Peninsula Community Church 

April 24, 2019 

Luke 24:13-21 That very day two of them were going to a village named Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem, and they were talking with each other about all these things that had happened. While they were talking and discussing together, Jesus himself drew near and went with them. But their eyes were kept from recognizing him. And he said to them, “What is this conversation that you are holding with each other as you walk?” And they stood still, looking sad. Then one of them, named Cleopas, answered him, “Are you the only visitor to Jerusalem who does not know the things that have happened there in these days?” And he said to them, “What things?” And they said to him, “Concerning Jesus of Nazareth, a man who was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people, and how our chief priests and rulers delivered him up to be condemned to death, and crucified him. But we had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel. Yes, and besides all this, it is now the third day since these things happened.

I love to watch movies. One of my favorite genres is the mystery/thriller genre. These movies weave a tale of adventure but there are always twists and turns throughout the movie. As these movies continue to draw on the emotions of the viewer, it is sometimes hard to understand how it will end. At other times it is hard to keep up with all of the plot changes. I am a big fan of Alfred Hitchcock and M. Night Shyamalan. These movies leave you in suspense and wondering what the outcome will be. I remember the movie called “Signs.” Throughout the movie there was this mysterious something out there but before the movie is over we find that it is a creature from outer space. The twist is that we find that the aliens are allergic to water. It was quite a twist. 

If you were a follower of Jesus in His day I believe that you would have seen the times as being mysterious and that there many plot twists. The followers of Christ were in chaos. Just as they thought they had a handle on the ending of the story, it changed. Before, during, and after the cruxifixction and resurrection of Jesus there seemed to be times of great mystery and surprise for the disciples. The plot twists of the life of Jesus kept everyone in suspense and questioning what was next. But this was not a movie. It was real life. The sad part was that the disciples had already been given the outcome to the story and yet the disciples missed it. But, as always, this was an opportunity for God to teach us lessons that will impact us for an eternity. 

It is noteworthy that Jesus had several encounters with the disciples as well as many others around Jerusalem before His ascension to Heaven. Today, we will look at just one of these encounters. In the passage we find that two men headed to Emmaus, a town about seven miles outside of Jerusalem. We do not know for sure but it has been suggested that they were leaving town. They had their fill of the drama and the excitement that had occurred in the city of Jerusalem over the last several days. They were getting out of town. They were leaving. 

While our initial reaction to this is to judge them and criticize their response to the activities of the past week, we must be reminded that we have also experienced things in our life that have impacted us to the point where we have wanted to leave. We have wanted to skip town. We have wanted to hide our heads and hope that when we lifted them up that whatever the problem is, it would be gone. When we are confronted with things in our life that are beyond our control, we want to run. We want to get out of town. We want to quit our job. We want to get a divorce. We want change and we want it fast, because the burden of our heart is too hard to handle. 

Too often, when we cannot align our beliefs with what is actually happening, we want to run and hide. The reality that exists is that there are times where what we believe and the reality of our life do not match or align itself with what we know to be the truth. Psychologists call this cognitive dissonance. This is where our belief system is challenged. It is here that our faith is tested big time. This occurs when we believe that God will provide our every need, but we find that we are deep in financial debt. We believe that God is a healer and takes care of those who belong to Him, and yet we have been diagnosed with a life threatening disease. We believe that the relationship we are in will last forever. We hold to the promises we made with that person only to find that they did not hold up their part of the commitment. We believe that God will take care of us and then someone in our life is taken from us prematurely and we become angry with God. We do not understand why He would allow such a tragedy to happen, and happen to us no less. In times like this, our faith is tested. What we hold to as truth can be challenged. The result is that we begin to ask questions and sort through the results of life. 

I had a friend who was into the “name it and claim it” theology. His theological premise was that you could ask God for anything and God would have to listen to you, if you prayed the right prayer, at the right time, was righteousness enough, and had no sin. He had a very close friend who became very ill and eventually died. That event led him to a conflict in his belief structure and to a crisis of faith. He struggled to understand his friend’s death. He struggled to consolidate his beliefs with the facts. After sometime in prayer, he came to a powerful conclusion.

Robert Morris who is a pastor in Dallas Texas had his faith tested when his daughter was struggling with some major health issues. They were struggling with her illness and did not see an end in sight. Though the situation continued to get worse, He came to a powerful conclusion, the same conclusion my friend reached. Pastor Morris summarized his conclusion this way. “I believe God will, I believe God can, but even if He doesn’t I still believe God.” We pray with all of the faith we can muster. We trust God for healing and if He does not we will still trust Him. We will not give up hope and we will not lose our faith. Pastor Morris continued by saying that we should “pursue Him more than you pursue the healing and know that no matter what happens Christ will be magnified in your body whether by life or death.”

These men had lost sight of the promise that Jesus would be with them. These men who were walking on the road had seen their faith tested big time. So, let me ask you where is your faith being tested? Is there something in your life that seems to be overwhelming you right now? Is it financial? Is it relational? Is it spiritual? Is it emotional or mental? I can tell you that no matter what it is, He is with you and that if we will pursue Him more than an answer to prayer, we will see the miraculous take place.

As these men are taking their journey, notice what Jesus does. He mysteriously shows up and visits with them. The amazing thing is that they do not even know that it was Him. As Jesus encounters them, we find that He asks them what they are talking about. They are astounded at the fact that He would not know what is going on in the city. “Are you the only visitor to Jerusalem who does not know the things that have happened there in these days?” They are in disbelief that He would not know what is going on. And yet, they are totally oblivious to who is standing in front of them. 

I am so glad when Jesus mysteriously shows up in every day life. Jesus met them where they were. He also meets us where we are. I love the sudden moments of the Scripture. Things are happening and we need an answer from God. In that moment, He shows up suddenly and mysteriously. We do not need to hide our hurts from Him. We do not need to ignore what we are feeling. We do not have to hide the fact that we are being tested and that our faith is weakened by the events or issues we are confronting. I love the fact that He shows up in the mundane and in the miraculous. He shows up when we least expect it to do what we can only imagine and more. 

They respond from the depths of their heart and in honesty. Listen to their own words. And they said to him, Concerning Jesus of Nazareth, a man who was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people, and how our chief priests and rulers delivered him up to be condemned to death, and crucified him. But we had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel. Yes, and besides all this, it is now the third day since these things happened.

Do you hear their heart? We had hoped! We wanted Him to deliver Israel. We wanted Him to save us. But, He did not do what we thought He would do. In essence, they were feeling like He had let them down. They acknowledged that the women had reported the resurrection but it seems that they still did not believe it, or at least they could not understand it. It is amazing that even when we have evidence that God is working, we can miss it. Then Jesus begins to share the scripture and the prophecies regarding His life. 

As they enter the village of Emmaus, Jesus acts as if He is headed on down the road but they convince Him to stay. So He did. At the meal that night He took the bread, blessed it, broke it, and shared it with them. In that moment, their eyes were opened and they recognized Him. And then He vanished. He was gone. Their hearts burned within them. They had an encounter with Jesus that would change them forever. They knew something was different in this encounter. They were so caught up in their moment, their pain, and their sadness that they almost missed Him. He was right there and they did not recognize Him. He was with them and they missed it. Let me tell you He is with you today. Do not miss Him. Do not skirt through life without acknowledging the presence of God in you today. 

They felt their hearts burn in them. Jesus will encounter you throughout your life and your heart will testify to the fact that He is present. Do not miss those moments. It might be because someone is sharing the gospel. It might be that we have encountered a God moment. It could be just a moment when you are weak, despondent, and sad. In that moment there is a sense in your heart and you know He is there. You know that He is present. When that happens acknowledge it. Give Him praise for that experience. Recognize also that even when we do not feel Him He is there. He has never left you nor has He forsaken you. This reminds me of the following poem:

Footprints in the Sand Poem

One night I dreamed a dream.

As I was walking along the beach with my Lord.

Across the dark sky flashed scenes from my life.

For each scene, I noticed two sets of footprints in the sand,

One belonging to me and one to my Lord.

After the last scene of my life flashed before me,

I looked back at the footprints in the sand.

I noticed that at many times along the path of my life,

especially at the very lowest and saddest times,

there was only one set of footprints.

This really troubled me, so I asked the Lord about it.

“Lord, you said once I decided to follow you,

You’d walk with me all the way.

But I noticed that during the saddest and most troublesome times of my life,

there was only one set of footprints.

I don’t understand why, when I needed You the most, You would leave me.”

He whispered, “My precious child, I love you and will never leave you

Never, ever, during your trials and testings.

When you saw only one set of footprints,

It was then that I carried you.”

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

Copyright © 2019 All Rights Reserved Robert W. Odom

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Overcoming Strongholds

Peninsula Community Church

Overcoming Strongholds 

July 29, 2018

Joshua 6:1-7 Now Jericho was shut up inside and outside because of the people of Israel. None went out, and none came in. And the LORD said to Joshua, “See, I have given Jericho into your hand, with its king and mighty men of valor. You shall march around the city, all the men of war going around the city once. Thus shall you do for six days. Seven priests shall bear seven trumpets of rams’ horns before the ark. On the seventh day you shall march around the city seven times, and the priests shall blow the trumpets. And when they make a long blast with the ram’s horn, when you hear the sound of the trumpet, then all the people shall shout with a great shout, and the wall of the city will fall down flat, and the people shall go up, everyone straight before him.” So Joshua the son of Nun called the priests and said to them, “Take up the ark of the covenant and let seven priests bear seven trumpets of rams’ horns before the ark of the LORD.” And he said to the people, “Go forward. March around the city and let the armed men pass on before the ark of the LORD.”

This morning we will continue to take a look at the battles of the Old Testament. How these battles were won will give us insight into how we should fight the battles we face. As noted last week, each battle described in Scripture is different in scope, different in how it was fought, and different in how God intervened each time. God used different experiences to show how He would intervene and work on our behalf. Each battle won was in fact a miracle that only God could do, so that His name would be glorified and honored. 

Today, we will look at the battle of Jericho. As we review this story, we find an amazing opportunity for God’s power to be revealed. To understand this story, we must begin with the truth that God had commanded Israel to take the land. They had been on the wilderness journey for forty years and had crossed over into the promised land. When they crossed over into the Promise Land everything changed. In the wilderness, God provided for all of their needs. He guided them with the cloud by day and the fire by night. He gave them food, water, and their clothes did not wear out.

You see while they had been given the land, they had to possess what already belonged to them. They had to drive out the enemies that lived there so that they could set up their homes and become the nation that God had called them to be. God would be there for them as He promised in Joshua 1. Listen to the words God spoke to Joshua.“Moses my servant is dead. Now therefore arise, go over this Jordan, you and all this people, into the land that I am giving to them, to the people of Israel. Every place that the sole of your foot will tread upon I have given to you, just as I promised to Moses. From the wilderness and this Lebanon as far as the great river, the river Euphrates, all the land of the Hittites to the Great Sea toward the going down of the sun shall be your territory. No man shall be able to stand before you all the days of your life. Just as I was with Moses, so I will be with you. I will not leave you or forsake you. Be strong and courageous, for you shall cause this people to inherit the land that I swore to their fathers to give them. Only be strong and very courageous, being careful to do according to all the law that Moses my servant commanded you. Do not turn from it to the right hand or to the left, that you may have good success wherever you go.They are in the promise land, but they have to put into action what they had been told to do by God. They were to possess the land. 

This brings us to their first encounter which was the city of Jericho, an impenetrable city. History tells us that Jericho was a walled city with walls wide enough for two chariots to race around the top of the wall. Some historians have suggested that the walls were so reinforced that it would take even the most powerful force over a year to penetrate the wall. They also had enough provisions stored up to last them more than a year. It was a mighty fortress and Israel was ill equipped to take the city. To take the city, God had to intervene.

As Israel approached the city, we find that the testimony of God’s power and His exploits had preceded them. The residents of Jericho knew who they were and what they could do. They ran into the city for protection and safety because they knew the power of God. They knew that God was on their side. In our journey, we need to know that whatever enemy we face is more intimidated by God than we could ever imagine. 

As we look deeper into the story, we find that Joshua sends in a reconnaissance team to survey the land. He wanted to know the enemy and he wanted to know the odds that were against him. What they already knew was confirmed by the team. Their enemy was large, well equipped, and powerful. The city was well fortified and would not be easily taken. The odds were against them, but God was on their side. That is all that mattered. 

After the report is given, Joshua does what all of us need to do when we encounter an enemy that is too big and fierce. He prayed. He sought the Lord. And, because He sought the Lord, God gave him a plan to take the city. Even today, if I had received these orders I would have been concerned. I might have even laughed at the prospect of doing what He commanded. After all, no one had done this before and this was outside the parameters of known warfare methods then and now. Walk around Jericho once a day for six days and then on the seventh day march seven times without a sound or a word. Then on the seventh day and the seventh time they were to sound the trumpet and lift a powerful sound of worship to God.

They received unusual orders, from an extraordinary God. As we know, Joshua obeyed and the walls came tumbling down. Out of obedience to God’s will, the walls began to fall and they crumbled like match sticks. Not a shot was fired. Not a fist was thrown. Not a sword was used. Israel did nothing but be obedient to God’s way of doing things. Israel was victorious because God wanted His name to be made known and because of the promise to Israel that He would be with them and keep them. 

As we look at the city of Jericho, we find that it is representative of the strongholds we face. The way the battle was won was God’s way of saying that their battle was not against flesh and blood, but against the forces of darkness. This walled city represented the principalities and powers that Israel would face. But those walls fell. So will the walls and strongholds of our life, if we are obedient to God.

The question therefore is how do we overcome the strongholds we encounter? I believe that this story gives us some clues. First, we must know our enemy. Joshua wanted to know his enemy and that is why he used a reconnaissance team to spy out the land. He wanted to know the workings of the enemy. The Bible tells us that our enemy is not flesh and blood, but it is the principalities and powers in our life. The enemy we face is liar and he is the father of lies. Strongholds are developed most often by us believing and accepting his lies. Here is a truth however, the enemy of our souls seems to be a formidable enemy just like Jericho, but he will fall because he has already been defeated by God upon the cross. 

Second, we must know what the strongholds in our life are. To know the strongholds, we must know what a stronghold is. Strongholds are reoccurring destructive habits that ultimately lead to our demise. Spiritual warfare’s main playing field is our mind, our thoughts, and our imaginations (2 Corinthians 10:5). A stronghold is a controlling spirit. These controlling spirits come in all sizes and shapes. They come packaged in the form of fear, anxiety, addictive behaviors, false humility, regrets, failures, self esteem, and so on. Someone has said that the things we try to hide and do not want anyone else to see is the stronghold that most affects us. We try to hide our fear, anxiety, and sin. We put up a good front and yet these things left to themselves become the nemesis in our life. They develop into strongholds. That is why the enemy we most often face is not flesh and blood, but it is a power that overwhelms us. 

Third, we must fight God’s way. We must begin in prayer and then take every thought captive to the glory of God. The battles in our life most often begin in our thought processes. We entertain thoughts that do not honor God or serve to move us closer to His purposes. You see it works something like this. We see, hear, or read something that is negative or destructive. Rather than examining the thought through the template of truth, we entertain that thought. Rather than using Paul’s template, in Philippians, we meditate on the thought or idea and rather than consider God’s way we make other choices. How should we process our thoughts? Paul in Philippians 4:8 said this. 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.

Do you see it? Our mindsets and our attitudes make all of the difference. Too often, we relive the lies and the falsehoods that have been propagated. These strongholds become the walls that surround us and the result is we do not live like we ought to. We do not respond to others like we ought to. We walk in discouragement and disappointment rather than in the victory that is ours through Christ. But, if we are obedient to God’s way, the walls can fall. Anxiety will be gone, fear will be dispelled, and sin will be forgiven. Down come the walls. 

So, what are the walls in your life? What walls have been built up so that you are captivated by the power of the stronghold? We must know that God loves us no matter what and he desires to set us free from every stronghold and bondage that is before us. 

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

Copyright © 2018 All Rights Reserved Robert W. Odom

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Flesh VS Spirit 

Peninsula Community Church 

April 29, 2018 

Flesh VS Spirit 

Romans 8:3-9 For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot. Those who are in the flesh cannot please God. You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him.

Last week we talked about not being condemned by our past failures and issues. We discussed the fact that we are free from sin and from the past as a result of the work of Christ on the cross. This week we will continue to look at how this transpires and how we can be assured that we are no longer condemned. From our discussion last week, we found that Romans 8:1 tells us that we are free from the guilt of sin, while Romans 8:2 tells us that we are free from the power of sin.

As we will see today, our mindset makes all of the difference and our focus will determine where we go and what we do. Our focus will determine what we will achieve or not achieve in life. Notice that in our passage today, we find that the law was weak because of the flesh. Therefore, if our focus is on the flesh we will fail to be what God has called us to be. We will be guided by a law that is weakened by the very flesh that we focus on. 

To understand this, we must recognize that the law was weakened by the flesh for two reasons. First, the law was weak as it is an outworking of the flesh that drives us to do things that we do not desire to do, and we do not do what we should do. It is the carnal nature that is the focus of Paul’s words in Romans 7. Let me explain what is meant by the flesh. The flesh is that part of us that recoils when we try to do what is right. It is that part of us that came alive when man sinned and disobeyed God in the Garden of Eden. From that time until now, it is the part of us that is at war with God’s desires for us and the purpose of the Spirit within us.

As I was preparing for this message I came across this. We know the work of the flesh in us when, like the disciples, we should be watching and praying, our flesh really wants to sleep. When we should be sleeping, our flesh finds Facebook browsing and catching up on email fascinating. When we should be diligently teaching our children (Deuteronomy 6:7), our flesh would love to watch a relaxing, family-friendly movie. When we should be meditating on Scripture, our flesh becomes a fountain of ideas for reorganizing the room, improving the yard, or critiquing political candidates. When we should be focusing on our work, our flesh brings up that focus-dominating fear and what we could be doing for fun. When we should be cutting our calories, our flesh demands a sugar-laced snack. When we should be eating because we have become undernourished due to believing the lies about how our weight relates to our value, our flesh screams shame-filled things to stop us. When we should be relishing the joy and freedom of sexual purity and fidelity, our flesh desires to imagine or view defiling, lewd images. When we should be humbly resisting premature conclusions regarding a potentially offensive concern or comment, our flesh immediately turns defensive and suspicious, proposing fantasy scenarios that will indulge sinful anger with a feeling of righteous indignation. Have you ever experienced that? Do you know how that feels? That is the struggle of the flesh.

The second reason the law was weakened by the flesh is that the law had no power to bring change. It could guide us, it could teach us, and it could point out sin, but it could not give life. It was powerless to bring peace, and it was powerless to help us please God. The law could tell us what is wrong, but it could not bring change. Have you ever had that person in your life that loved to point the wrong in your life and uncover your failures, but were unwilling to aide in changing or overcoming those issues? That was the problem with the law. It pointed out sin, but it did nothing to relieve it. 

The one positive thing that came from the law is that it taught us we need a Savior. It taught us that following the rules alone is not good enough. We need a Savior. It taught us that towing the line is not productive, because we fear failing and coming up short, which happens when we try to follow the legalism of the law. We can do all of the right things and still fall short of what was intended. We need a Savior. 

That is why Paul’s next statement is so powerful. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.  Notice that Christ came in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin in order to accomplish what the law could not do. The law required righteousness. The law required us to tow the line. The law required us to keep in step.

The law had a requirement for righteousness which could not be fulfilled any way but through Jesus Christ. That is why He who knew no sin took on all of our sin past, present, and future. He fulfilled the righteous requirements of the law. What the law could not do, God did by sending His Son. At first glance, we might miss the depth of this statement. God sent His Son. This meant that He existed before. He is eternal and came to earth to save that which was lost. 

What we know is that the righteous requirement of the law was fulfilled in Christ. We are now empowered to follow Christ through the power of the Holy Spirit. The law could not defeat sin; it could only detect it. Only Jesus can defeat sin, and He did just that through His work on the cross. The question then is is where will we focus our attention? What will we set our minds on? Will we focus on the spirit or will we focus on the flesh? By focusing on the flesh we become obsessed with the rules and the dos and don’ts and we miss living life. We will be focused on just getting by, rather than living life to the fullest. By focusing on the flesh, we miss the opportunity to walk in freedom. On the other hand, if we focus on the spirit, we live in freedom and power. 

Why is this? For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot. Those who are in the flesh cannot please God. As Paul noted, the flesh is hostile to God. It does not submit to God’s law because it cannot. In the flesh it is impossible to please God. That was the plight of Paul in Romans 7, but it is his victory in Romans 8. 

With that in mind let me make an observation or two. We must remember that the fruit of the Spirit is not produced through legislation but by what the vine is connected to. That is why we must be in Christ. That is why we cannot legislate morality, but we must live a spirituality that comes by living a life fully connected to Christ. How many have ever passed a fruit tree and have heard it groaning and moaning to produce fruit? That is not the case at all. That is because fruit is produced from the connection it has to the vine. It does not worry about its fruit, it just stays connected. So are you connected? How do we connect? 

For the guys who were at the men’s retreat this year you might remember Garret Barbush’s message. At the close of his message, he gave us some perspective into how we can set our minds on the spirit and stay connected which leads to bearing the fruit of the spirit. First, we must be confident of our position in Christ. In John 10:10 we find that a full life is a contented life. It is a life of balance. Jesus came to be our life, so you can make a difference as a believer. If we do not remain in Him, we will not be fruitful and we will not make a difference. Instead, we will be tempted to live by the flesh and not the spirit. As believers, we are in Him and we should rest in that.

Second, be aware of God’s desire to be in constant fellowship with you. We will abide in Him only as we are aware that He wants to abide with us. We know this because He chose us. In John 15:16 we find that “He chose us to bear fruit in us.” He chose us to bear fruit and we do that best when we are in fellowship with Him. The result is that we keep our minds set on Christ. 

Third, be intentional about spending time with God. In Matthew 22:36-37 the question is asked about what is the greatest commandment? How do we love God with all of our heart and soul? If we were loving God the way He wants, we will be changing culture. We will be bearing fruit because it is the defining mark of a believer. We must spend time together. We do this through prayer and solitude. 

Fourth, be in God’s word so we get to know Him. We are ineffective without His word. Without His word, we fail to understand what He wants for us. Without His word, we are left to our own demise. Without His word, we become disconnected and discontented. 

My challenge today us to take the next 30 days and focus fully on the Spirit. Spend time in the Bible and in prayer so that we become more connected to Christ. At the end of the thirty days report back and let me know how you are doing. My guess is that you will find that you are doing much better than you hoped or thought. 

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

Copyright © 2018 All Rights Reserved Robert W. Odom

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Persistent Prayer

Peninsula Community Church

Persistent Prayer 

September 3, 2017

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?”

Let me begin by asking you a couple of questions. Have you been praying for something that you desperately need to have an answer? Have you become a bit discouraged by the lack of answers? Let me ask you another question. Do you believe God to be sovereign? Can God do whatever He wants? If God is sovereign and He can do what He wants, then why do we pray? If we pray, then how much do we have to pray? Why does it seem sometimes that we have to bother or pester God to get Him to answer our prayers?

As we consider the theology of prayer, we must first come to the conclusion that we must be people of prayer. We pray because it builds faith. We pray because it keeps us focused on Christ. We pray because within us is the power of Christ, and through prayer that power is released into the circumstances and events of our lives. And then, from our passage, today, Jesus reminds us that we are to pray and not lose heart. It is here that we find that prayer and hope are intricately connected.

It is noteworthy that He says that they ought to pray. This speaks to me that the disciples did not always do that. Just like the disciples, we often fail to be persistent and committed to prayer. Here is a fact. To fail to pray is to set ourselves up to lose heart and be discouraged. The enemy of our souls loves to get us to shorten our prayers, delay our prayers, or even omit our prayers altogether. He knows that if he can deceive us into a lack of prayer, we will be more subjected to hopelessness and discouragement. In our lack of prayer, we get our focus off of Jesus. In our lack of prayer, we focus on the problem and not Jesus.

There was much in Jesus’ day to cause one to lose heart. The Romans were brutal to the people around them. They had economic problems. They had sin problems. But as in their day, there is much for us to lose heart over as well. There is the flooding in Texas and Louisiana. There is violence on the streets. There is an all out effort to destroy the fabric of who we are as a nation. Marriages are failing. Children are rebelling. People are filled with anxiousness. People are sick. Friends die. So many are losing heart.

This idea of losing heart is nothing new. In 2 Corinthians chapter three and four, Paul reminds us that where the spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty (2 Corinthians 3:17) and for that reason we should not lose heart (2 Corinthians 4:1). Paul recognizes that resident within us is the power of God. Through prayer His power is released to reach people and bring hope (Ephesians 3:20-21). In 2 Corinthians 4:16 we find that because the grace of God is being extended to us, we do not have to lose heart. Through prayer we see and experience the impact of this upon our life. Through prayer, we release the Spirit of the Lord in our life, and by grace we recognize our need for pray.

To illustrate the power of prayer, and in this case persistent prayer, Jesus shares a parable, a story or word picture that helps us understand a Biblical truth. In this parable, we see there are three key characters. The first is the persistent widow. Notice there is no mention of her social standard or her spiritual condition. What we know is that she was a widow, she had a need, and she was persistent in bringing her need to the judge. Historically, we know that widows in Jesus’ day did not fair well. When a woman was widowed and there was no one in her husband’s family to marry her, she was not cared for and she had to fend for herself.

That brings us to the second character in this story. The widow went to this judge to arbitrate her case. The judge she addressed was described as a godless man. He had no fear of God nor did he reverence God in his decisions. Secondly, this judge did not respect men. He was not only an ungodly man, he was one that did not get along with others. Historically, it has been documented that many judges in that day were known to give favors to those who would give a wink and would pass a few bucks under the table. He made decisions based on one’s status and what he could gain. He was always worried about his status. He was concerned more about what was in it for him than what was best for the people.

The widow had a need and she presented her need to the judge. She was persistent in her request for help. She would not leave him alone. She would not give up or let go in presenting her need. He finally, in desperation, surrendered to her request. In so doing, it is noteworthy to see the verbiage he used. The judge states that he relented so that she will not beat me down by her continual coming. This literally meant that he was afraid that she would give him a black eye. He was not worried about her harming him physically, but that his credibility in the community would be impacted (even though he had done that to himself). Because of her persistence he came to her aide.

It is at this point in the story, that Jesus turns a corner and brings us to a third character in the parable. Jesus expresses the idea that if an ungodly, unjust, and unfriendly judge would come to the aid of a persistent woman, how much more will a God who loves His children do for them, especially when they are persistent in their prayers.

Notice in this passage, Jesus states that He will answer speedily. This seems to be a contradiction of terms in the sense that we are to be persistent and yet He answers speedily. Here is the point, we are to be persistent and recognize the work of God in our life. We continue to pray even though we do not see the answer immediately. But, He does answer us immediately. I say yes He does. Sometimes He says yes. Sometimes He says no. Sometimes He says wait because He has something better for you and/or there is something for you to learn about life.

Here is the lesson for us today. First, we must not give up on prayer. Be persistent. Do not give up. Continue to focus on God and His ability to bring an answer to our questions and to our need. As noted before, there is a tendency to hurry, shorten, be careless, or even omit our prayer. In so doing, our lives get out of focus and we can begin to lose heart and become discouraged.

Secondly, we endure things not durable through prayer. Through prayer we remain focused on God’s ability. Through prayer we are expressing our faith in God who can bring about His will and His purpose in our life. Peter added to this discussion when he made the following observation. The end of all things is at hand; therefore be self-controlled and sober-minded for the sake of your prayers (1 Peter 4:7).

Third, through prayer we build hope because we focus on the one who is able. Our trust level is increased and our trust in Jesus brings us hope. Notice what Job had to say about hope. Though he slay me, I will hope in him; yet I will argue my ways to his face (Job 13:15). Do you remember Job? In a very short period of time, Job lost everything. He lost his source of income. He lost his business as they were attacked by an enemy force. A fire fell from heaven that destroyed his livestock. And then a storm blew through and he lost his family to a strong wind when their home was destroyed. With all of this, He was able to keep his focus on God. Here is Job’s point. Though I lose my life, I will have hope and I will continue to bring my needs to Him. I will not give up. I will press on and I will keep focused on God.

So here is where the rubber meets the road. What are you confronting? What is weighing you down? Where do you need an intervention of God’s grace? How are  you doing? Are you discouraged? Is your faith failing? I would suggest that you turn to the one who is able to build hope and faith in us today. Press in. Be persistent. In due time God will answer you. He will make a way. By the way remember the story of Job.

Here is the end of the story. In Job 42 we find that the LORD restored the fortunes of Job, when he had prayed for his friends. And the LORD gave Job twice as much as he had before (v 10).  And the LORD blessed the latter days of Job more than his beginning. And he had 14,000 sheep, 6,000 camels, 1,000 yoke of oxen, and 1,000 female donkeys (v. 12). And after this Job lived 140 years, and saw his sons, and his sons’ sons, four generations. And Job died, an old man, and full of days (v. 16-17). He could have given in and he could have lost hope, but He stayed focused on God no matter how bad things had gotten.

Today, I encourage you to stay focused and trust that God will answer and He will provide. If we pray, we will be able to live life to the fullest so that when we are no longer here it can be said of us, he/she died an old man/woman and full of days. Let us pray

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 Glory of Knowing God

Peninsula Community Church 

The Glory of Knowing God

August 27, 2017

Philippians 3:8-11 Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead.

Last week we closed the message with the concept that the best way to overcome the influence of the thief’s schemes is for us to know God. Today, I would like to go back to that thought. In so doing, we will review the words of Paul in Philippians 3:8-11. Paul reminds us that his greatest aspiration in life was to know God.

Can you imagine the Apostle Paul asking for such a request? Here is a man by all accounts that was a master servant (Romans 1:1; Philippians 1:1; Titus 1:1). The one thing we know about Paul is that he was deliberate about serving Christ’s purposes. He had dedicated his life to the service of Christ. From several perspectives, Paul was the last person anyone would think might have such aspirations. After all, Paul is the one who had been to the third heaven (2  Corinthians 12:2-4). Paul had been taught by some of the finest scholars of his day (Acts 22:3). His heritage was indisputable and his pedigree was nothing to scoff at. It was this same Paul who had a personal encounter with Christ that radically changed his life (Acts 9:9). And yet, Paul wanted to know Him more.

As we review this passage, we find there are three key things expressed. First, Paul begins by stating that he counted everything as loss when compared to the surpassing worth of knowing Christ. Paul is expressing that all of the earthly praiseworthy accolades cannot compare to a personal knowledge of Christ. He is saying that if the accolades and pedigree he possessed were to be put on one scale and his desire to know Christ were put on the other, his desire to know Christ would always outweigh whatever accolades and successes he might have had. Paul is saying here that his resume and his pedigree do not define him.

Now please don’t misunderstand me. God uses our education, our connections, and family to accomplish the work of the kingdom but those things must never cast a shadow over knowing Christ personally. You see God always looks at the heart of man. Remember David? He was anointed king by Samuel. David’s father was looking to his sons who had the credentials, the size, and the looks, but they were not qualified in the eyes of God. What God was looking for is someone who had a relationship with Him. You see David knew God! He had learned to trust God in all of his ways. In the end, David was chosen for his heart and not his outward resume.

With that said, Paul identifies two ways in which he wanted to know Christ. First, Paul wanted to know Jesus through His resurrection. What an awesome view of life. When we view life through the resurrection power of Christ, we determine there is nothing beyond His ability to accomplish. When we know Him in His resurrection power, we know His power and we know His ability. Think about it. Jesus was dead. He was not half dead or three quarters dead like in the movie Princess Bride. He was dead. As one who interacts with EMS personnel, the most challenging task today is to revive someone who has suffered a cardiac arrest. In the EMS world, you have about 4-6 minutes to provide medical care before the person begins to lose brain function. After 8 minutes death is most likely. Jesus was dead for three days. From Friday night to Sunday Morning he lay in a grave. He took no breath for three days, but on the third day He rose.

Paul wanted to know this resurrection power of Christ. For Paul and for us the resurrection power of Christ reminds us that there is nothing impossible with God. If a dead Savior can be risen in victory, whatever we face can be turned around for His glory. The enemy thought he had Christ. He thought he had won, but can you imagine the sounds coming from the little hill side in Jerusalem when the stone was rolled away. Jesus rose to give us power over sin and death. That is how Paul wanted to know Christ. Paul wanted to know His power.

Listen to the words of Paul in Romans 8:9-11 You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him. But if Christ is in you, although the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness. If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you. Paul wanted to know the resurrection power because he recognized that power brings life. So, do you know His resurrection power?

Secondly, Paul stated that he wanted to know Christ in His suffering. To be honest, this is where one I struggle. I don’t want to know Him through His suffering. I have enough of my own and that is too painful. The problem is that much of our theology today would avoid such a discussion. To listen to much of the theology being espoused today you might think we were to never have a bad day. We are never to have any problems and if we do, it is because somehow we are a failure and sinful. Contrary to this, nothing could be further from the truth. So what was Paul saying. Through suffering Jesus demonstrated humility, extended love, gave grace, and spoke with words of wisdom. That is the kind of man Paul wanted to be. He wanted to model for the world an attitude of Jesus.

Paul also knew another perspective of knowing Jesus’ suffering. Paul knew that in our difficult times we grow more and we experience the faith of God more than at other times in our life. It is in times of struggle that we get to know Him and His saving grace. It is in times of struggle that we either turn to Christ or we push Him away. If we are honest, it is in our struggles that we find the grace of God. It is in our struggles that we find faith in God. It is in our struggles that we find a future in God. By knowing Christ in both His resurrection and suffering we come to know the totality of who He is and who He is begins to define who we are.

So on a practical level, how do we come to know Christ? First and foremost we get to know Christ by knowing the Word. After all the Word is an active living force according to Hebrews 4:12-13. To know the Word is to know Jesus because the Word and Jesus are one. Through Jesus the Word became flesh (John 1:1,14). So to know Jesus we must get the Word of God in us. We read, meditate, and apply the Word to our hearts so that it begins to form and shape who we will be and how we will act. The purpose of the Word was and is to bring instruction, direction, warning, and hope according to 2 Timothy 3:16-17. It is the Word that speaks to us in amazing ways. The Word brings death to sin and life to hearts. Additionally, if you read the Gospel accounts of Jesus’ life, you find that Jesus was a mirror of the Father. To know Jesus is to know the Father (John 5:19, 6:38, 8:28, 10:30). What He did was a reflection of the Father’s will. What He said was a reflection of the Father’s heart. Know the Word and you will know Jesus.

Secondly, we pray. Why is prayer important? Prayer is important because it aligns our will with God’s will. In prayer we surrender ourselves, our will, and our ways to God. In prayer, we hear the voice of God as He speaks to our hearts. Greg Laurie stated “Prayer is our connection to heaven and heaven’s connection to us. That is why you should always keep the lines open.” If we take the model prayer, the Lord’s Prayer, we find is a testimony of who the Father is. Through this prayer we find that He is to be hallowed, reverenced, and honored. We also find that Jesus invites us to invite the kingdom of God in our current situation.

Thirdly, we worship God. Too many times we confuse worship as an activity relegated to a one hour time slot on Sunday, but the reality is worship should be a way of life. In worship, as we begin to proclaim the greatness of God, we experience something in our hearts. As we confess to God change happens. The very definition of worship is to ascribe worth to something. What we worship we give value. When we ascribe worth to God, we are drawn into a deeper relationship because we will value that relationship and we will value that person.

Finally, we come to know God by joining our hearts and minds together. That is why the word tells us not to forsake the coming together (Hebrews 10:25). That is why bible studies, Sunday school, and book clubs are so important. In these events we come together and we hear what God is doing. We watch each other grow. We navigate the difficulties of life together. It is not by chance that the Book of Acts reminds new believers to continue to gather together (Acts 2:42). It is in fellowship that we grow but the reality is we grow more than relationally, we grow in our knowledge of God because we understand God more when are in communion with one another.

So the question for us today is, do you what to know Christ more? You can! Read the Word, worship him, pray, and join together and your understanding of God will increase.

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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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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