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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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