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Preparing for Battle

Peninsula Community Church 

Preparing for Battle

October 14, 2018 

Ephesians 6:10-13  Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm.

This is the third installment of our stronghold series. Today, we will begin to focus our attention on the preparation needed for battle. As many of you know, I am a football fan and particularly an Alabama Crimson Tide fan. When it comes to football, there are a couple of things that every team understands they need to do before the next game. It does not matter who the foe is or how big the opponent might be, the preparation is generally the same. 

Throughout the week the team and the coaches are reviewing film from previous games and from the games their opponent has played. They are looking for weaknesses, finding strengths, and looking for patterns that can be useful on the field of play. They do not just watch film, they are also on the practice field preparing and running plays that will be used in the game. They are in the weight room exercising and they are doing PT on the field. Why is this? It is so they will be prepared for the battle that will take place on the field of play. They want to be stronger, faster, and smarter than their opponents. 

In this passage, I believe that Paul gives us some insight into how we can prepare for battle against our opponent. We must realize that we cannot wait until we are in the battle to prepare, we do so in advance. When it comes to football teams, they do not wait until game day to prepare. They are preparing everyday for the next game. They prepare physically, mentally, and emotionally. Think about this, can you imagine what would happen if our arm forces waited until the day of battle to prepare and learn to fight. Football teams and armies prepare before the battle. For us, there should be no exception. We too need to prepare and be ready for battle before we face the enemy. We must also acknowledge that our battle does not take place on Saturday at noon or Sunday at 1:00 PM. The fact is we are in this battle every day. 

As we look at Paul’s words, we gain a better understanding how we can prepare for the battles we face. The first insight from Paul is that we need to know our strength. More importantly, from a spiritual standpoint, we must understand where our strength comes from. Even more so, we must know Who is our strength. Paul begins this passage with the words be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. Be strong in the Lord! What a powerful request/command by Paul. When it comes to the battles we face we must recognize that our strength is not in our ability, but it comes from the Lord. Scripture is replete with instructions about strength. In 2 Samuel 22:40 we find David making this statement of truth. For you equipped me with strength for the battle; you made those who rise against me sink under me. As we prepare for battle, we must know that our strength comes from the Lord. 

The word used by Paul for strength is the Greek word “endunamousthe.” The root of the word is the Greek word “dunamis.” The idea presented by this word is that the power is resident within. Dunamis is where we get our word dynamite. Endunamousthe literally means to impart ability or to empower. Paul is saying here that we are empowered to fight this battle because of the power that is resident within. As the power of dynamite is resident within the dynamite, so also all of the power we need is already resident within us. The real power of dynamite is not fully realized until the fuse is lit and the powder within the dynamite is ignited. 

Our power comes from God and not from anything we do on our own. That is all of the power we need and it is unleashed when we need it. John Piper reminds us that we are empowered through our union with Christ. Our connection with Christ empowers us and imparts to us great strength. That is why the words of Isaiah 40:28-31 are so awesome. Have you not known? Have you not heard? The LORD is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He does not faint or grow weary; his understanding is unsearchable. He gives power to the faint, and to him who has no might he increases strength. Even youths shall faint and be weary, and young men shall fall exhausted; but they who wait for the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.

Look at the use of the word strength in Isaiah’s passage. God does not tire or grow weary. He is always at work on our behalf. We do get weak and we faint in the activity of life. When that happens, He increases our strength. Secondly, while everyone faces struggles that weaken them and cause exhaustion, those who wait upon the Lord shall see their strength renewed. Think about that. We can be weak and weary, but God’s power, the power resident within us, empowers us to keep going, to keep enduring, and continues to enable us to overcome every issue we face. 

To have that kind of insight brings joy and that joy is found in the wellspring of His strength. In Nehemiah 8:10 we find that we do not have to be grieved, for the joy of the LORD is your strength. John Piper stated that it’s a remarkable point delivered to Nehemiah and a people who were ravaged by war, weakened by insecurities, and constantly reminded of their own fragility. And this is where we find our strength: for life, for pain, for trials, for marriage, for child-raising, for missions, for everything. The strength we need for this life is found in the essential joy of God. Paul also recognized this inherent power when he stated I can do all things through him who strengthens me (Philippians 4:13). 

Secondly, while we need to know our strength, we also need to know our enemy. In this passage Paul reminds us that we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. When it comes to football teams they can get distracted by the hype and the media that is seen and heard. They can focus on the negatives or they can get overconfident in the positive press. They can also get distracted by looking beyond the game they are now playing. They are not in the moment and are looking to the wrong enemy. You see their battle is not with the media or the fans, it is against the team they are playing. 

The enemy also loves to get us distracted to the degree that we begin to fight against the wrong enemy. Know this! Our family is not the enemy. Our job is not the enemy. Our friends are not the enemy. Our enemy is the demonic forces that are at work against us that desire to neutralize us and diminish our effectiveness in the world around us and the community we live. That is the enemy we need to face.

Finally, while we must know our strength, and our enemy, we must also know our equipment and get prepared for battle. In the case before us, we must put on the armor of God. We must be dressed for war and for battle. We must put on the armor provided for us. When the team enters the field they must be prepared for the game. They suit up. They have on their shoulder pads, their helmet, their cleats, and so on. They are suited up and ready for battle. 

Let me give you one thought about this idea of suiting up and being ready for battle. There this an incredible story in the Old Testament. David had consulted with Saul. David agrees to fight Goliath as no one else was stepping up the plate. After Saul and David agreed to allow David to fight Goliath, Saul offered David his armor. David refused it as it did not fit him because it was not the right armor for him. You see the world will try to get you to wear armor that you were never intended to wear. The problem was not Saul’s armor. The issue was this was not God’s plan. David’s trust was in the Lord. He had learned to rely on the strength of the Lord. It was not the armor he wore, as much as the spiritual armor that protected him and kept him safe.

The world is ready to give us all kinds of armor to wear. It does not mean that the world’s armor is always bad it just means that it is not always the best or God’s best. Think about it. Positive thinking is certainly a mindset we need. But a positive mindset without God creates in us a spirit that is self-focused, arrogant, and self-serving.

It is also important to note that the armor of God is something we wear all of the time. We are active in the battle, not reactive. When the enemy attacks your thoughts, it is not the time to try and put on the helmet of salvation. When the enemy presents you with the lies about who you are, and who God is, that is not the time to put on the belt of truth. When the enemy presents false doctrine that is not the time to try and find the sword of the spirit. We are equipped before hand, because we know we face our enemy all of the time. That is because we never know when we will encounter one of his schemes that want to take us out. Over the next couple of weeks we will review the armor we need to wear and how those parts of the armor is best used for maximum effectiveness. 

For now how are you doing? Do you know where your strength comes from? Do you know your enemy? And lastly, are you prepared for battle by knowing your equipment? Doing so allows us to be effective and gives us the upper hand in conquering the enemy and the strongholds in our life. 

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

Copyright © 2018 All Rights Reserved Robert W. Odom

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Strongholds Part 2

Peninsula Community Church 

Defining Strongholds

October 7, 2018 

Hebrews 12:1-2 Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.

Today, we will look at the second part of our study on strongholds. The goal is to learn about these strongholds so that we can understand how to break free from those things that hold us in bondage. I love the author’s perspective here in Hebrews 12. Lay aside every weight and sin that clings so closely. There are weights and sin that cling to us in such a way that it seems almost impossible to rid ourselves of them. We try but these things continue to arise and continue to impact us in negative ways. It seems that no matter what we do they are always there and we are always dealing with them. It reminds me of the plastic that clings to us and no matter how much we try and rid ourselves of it, it is there. 

As we look at this subject let us take a moment to review how we define what a stronghold is. Last week, we established that a stronghold is anything that diminishes the knowledge of God in our life or reduces how we see ourselves as a creation of God. That is the power and role of strongholds. Because our knowledge of God and our understanding of ourselves as a creation of God is impacted, these things affect us emotionally, relationally, spiritually, and mentally. Our whole man is impacted. Our whole life is affected. These strongholds become weights that minimize our growth and our effectiveness.

Because we have a diminished view of God and a misunderstanding of how God has created us, our relationships and our circumstances are affected. That is why we never truly sin to ourselves. We can say this will not hurt anyone else but that is a lie. Our sin and the strongholds we hold onto impact our jobs, our relationships, our future, and so much more. That is why it is critical that we both recognize and deal with these issues.

When we have issues because of our misunderstanding of who God is and how we have been created, we can believe that it is impossible to overcome the issue because we have sinned too much and what we have done is too great. We are often deceived into believing that we are the way we are and that will not change. Thus we never progress in dealing positively with our attachments and strongholds. We in fact get deeper rather than getting relief. Suddenly, the snow ball effect begins and the small manageable issue is suddenly a giant snowball out of control. Most of the issues we face did not start over night but slowly we become entrapped. The truth in this regard is that is that most of the issues we deal with in life did not happen overnight or in a instant. And yet it seems that all of a sudden we find ourselves embroiled in a fierce battle. 

How do these things happen? Let me give you a few things that might be helpful. First, weights occur because of the small steps toward compromise and the result of bad decisions. Strongholds are often the result of a series of smaller steps that we take or a series of bad decisions we make. That is why we say that our choices have consequences. The decisions we make today effect us tomorrow and beyond. We are battling strongholds in our life today because of the decisions we made at some juncture in the past. John Piper has stated that today’s decisions will determine what we will become tomorrow and how we will respond to the knowledge of God. That is so true.

In the Old Testament we find the story of Esau. A series of decisions by Esau changed the trajectory of his life. Esau took the temporary pleasure offered to him by his twin brother Jacob to satisfy his hunger, a bowl of stew. In doing so, he forfeited his future inheritance. He chose the now instead of what was promised to come. He chose temporary pleasure by forfeiting the eternal blessing promised to him as the firstborn son.

What temporary fixes are we choosing today? Is it the bottle? Is it a drug? Is it a sexual relationship? Is it uncontrolled anger? Is it gambling? Is it spending that is out of control? Is it isolation? Is it control? Is it an unhealthy love of money? All these things are temporary solutions but can have lasting effects on us! 

When we choose the temporary over the eternal, the easy over the hard, the false over the true, it leads to deception and bondage. It is possible that Esau lived the rest of his life wondering what life would have been like if he had not made these decisions. As we know the awesomeness of God is found later in his life. Because of God’s grace, Jacob and Esau were reconciled and their relationship was restored. It is amazing that we have the privilege to take steps toward God. There is healing from very bad choice and decision we make.

Secondly, unnecessary weight comes upon us when we fail to endure. We are living in a society that fails to endure in marriage, in our jobs, in the church, and in so many other parts of our life. It is a normal way of life it seems. It appears that a consistent long-term obedience is hard to come by. No one is perfect but when we fail to endure and push through, we can succumb to the bondage of giving up. When things get hard we run. When things are tough we give up. The result is that we begin to live with rejection and without a vision for a new day. We talked about this last Tuesday in our men’s study. We fall into bondage when we fail to endure and live out the promises we made. To fight the battles and overcome the weights in our life we must endure. The reward for those who endure is eternal life (Matthew 24:13). 

Thirdly, weights are realized when we do not walk in forgiveness. When we fail to walk in forgiveness we are prone to debilitating emotional strongholds that can control our lives and our way of reasoning. Forgiveness allows others to control us. By not forgiving others we give control to others. By waiting for someone to apologize before we offer forgiveness gives that individual power over us. It is for that reason that we must learn to let go of the hurt, pain, or anger we experience for our own sake. We need to release others so that a root of bitterness does not grow in us. That is the problem when we do not forgive others. We are filled with bitterness, anger, and hatred. Therefore, we must release others so we can be healed. 

Fourth, weights occur when we do not effectively deal with the hurt and pain we have experienced. Rather than release the pain and hurt we hold on to it. Instead of releasing our hurt and pain we weaponize it. We use it as an excuse for failure. We use it against others. We use it get our way. In fact, we become so good at it that we do not even think we have a problem. We begin to think everyone else is the problem and fail to accept any responsibility for our part of the problem. 

We often use our pain to cover up and hide our issues. We can hide our hurt so deeply that we can believe that we can never love again. We can hide behind the pain so that we protect ourselves from any future hurt, or so we think. We turn to drugs, alcohol, sexual relationships, and so on to numb the pain in an attempt to live a normal life. But, the more we depend on these things the less we live in reality. The less we live with the truth of God’s love for us and the destiny of God’s purpose in our life. 

So what do we do? In this passage, we find a couple of specifics that introduce us to how we should deal with strongholds. We will look at this more deeply next week. The passage begins with the letting go of every weight and sin that clings to us and keeps us from running the race we have been called to. It is amazing that when we start to have problems, these things seem to never let us go but they keep fighting and battling us. They cling to us. No matter how we try they are there.

The term here is an athletic term. It refers to the one who runs a race that must rid themselves of everything that hinders them. I have known runners that wear heavier clothing and they wear weights while they are practicing, but when they are in the race they get rid of everything that would slow them down. We must shed the hindrances and the bondages of our life so we can run an effective race for Christ.

The second part of this passage calls us to focus on Jesus the author and finisher of our faith. The point being made is this. We began this relationship with Christ by faith and it is that faith that will sustain us. When we have problems if we are not careful our focus will be misaligned and our hearts will be out of focus.

In the final analysis, we have to make a decision. We have to determine that we need and want to change. We have all heard it said that when they reach bottom they will change. There is truth to that but we do not have to wait until we reach the bottom. We can make a conscious decision to lay aside every weight and sin that so easily besets us or clings to us today. 

It is not easy but this works begins with a decision that we want to change and are tired of the way we have been living, and we are tired of giving control over to someone or something else. It is a decision that we will do whatever it takes to overcome the enemy’s purposes for our live and align ourselves with the purposes of God. Are you ready? I know you can do it! It begins with a simple decision to focus on Christ, the one who is the author and finisher of our faith.

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

Copyright © 2018 All Rights Reserved Robert W. Odom

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Understanding Spiritual Strongholds 

Peninsula Community Church 

Understanding Spiritual Strongholds 

September 30, 2018 

2 Corinthians 10:4-6 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.

Over the last few weeks, and especially this week, our eyes have been focused on the events surrounding Judge Kavanaugh’s confirmation. This has unsettled so many on both sides of the issues. The way this has been handled, the words that have been spoken, and the lack of substantial evidence should not surprise us. Let me say this, I believe that Dr. Ford has most likely suffered some traumatic event in her life, but it is unfair to accuse one that seems completely innocent. The Bible is explicit that in the last days we would find ourselves facing the truth that right would be wrong and wrong would be right. The enemy is having a hay day and is causing division on so many levels and not just politically. It is happening in government, yes, but, it is also happening in communities. It is happening in our relationships. It is happening within us. It is happening all around us.

With that in mind I would like to take the next couple of weeks to review the power of strongholds and the various aspects of spiritual warfare. During this time we will look at the spiritual influences that impact our life. We will examine the affect of these spiritual influences on us and on society. We will review the process of how strongholds are established in our life. I ask that you pray as we begin to discuss these things, as I know that we will face opposition and will face our own level of spiritual warfare in greater ways. But, I think it will be worth it. 

As we begin, perhaps it would be helpful to define what a stronghold is and how demonic influences impact us. I love what Max Lucado says. A stronghold is a false premise that denies God’s promises and diminishes the knowledge of God. In our passage today, Paul states that a stronghold  “sets itself up against the knowledge of God.” It attempts to magnify the problem and minimize God’s ability to solve it. That is the greatest impact of a stronghold in our life. It seeks to destroy or negatively impact the knowledge of God in our life. It’s goal is to distort truth and distract from that which is God’s word and God’s truth. Its goal is to keep us from seeing God for who He is and to see how He has created us.

In my opinion this is the bottom line for most of the issues we face. I remind you that these issues in their most basic understanding are not political but are spiritual at their core. The things we face today are a fight for rulership and authority in our life. It is a battle for control. It is a battle for the moral high ground. It is a battle that goes beyond democratic and republican parties. This is not a political battle but it is certainly a spiritual battle for the soul of mankind. It is not an American issue. It is a battle for spiritual dominance and a reset of the Biblical worldview.

Because these are spiritual issues, most of the problems we face are a result of the fact that God’s influence in our society has been reduced and in many cases has been removed. We have removed prayer from the public arena. We have removed God from our schools. We have not asked God to be at the forefront of our decisions and actions. In fact, in many arenas God is the problem and therefore He must be removed. The result of removing God from the public debate is that we are becoming more and more godless as a nation. We are becoming more interested in political power, self-exaltation, and selfish gain than being a God fearing nation. 

I have argued for some time that most of the issues, if not all of the issues, we face today are a result of satanic influences that move men against God. Whatever the issue, it is spiritual at its core. Whether it is abortion, feminism, gay rights, abortion rights, sexual identity, pornography, or any of the many other issues that are at the forefront of our society, these issues are spiritual at their core. In reality it is an argument against God’s design for the world. Many of the issues we encounter are in reality contrary to what God desires and to His character. 

In our passage today, we are confronted with the idea of spiritual warfare. We fail too often because we fail to understand that we are in a battle and it is a battle for truth and righteousness. It is not just any truth or righteousness, as defined by those around us. It is a matter of what God believes to be true and what He believes to be righteousness. You see once we move off center, in regard to God’s truth, we subject ourselves to strongholds and negative spiritual forces. 

So what do we do. First, we must be aware that the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. Here is the point we do not fight like others do. We fight with God’s arsenal. Look at what Paul says in Ephesians 6:12. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. Notice here that our battle is with spiritual forces whose purpose is to destroy our view of God. If these forces go unrestrained, they will hold sway over this world and will control our thoughts. 

Here is the truth, our battle is not with liberals or the unsaved. Our battle is against demonic forces that influence people with negative attitudes and false doctrine. When God and God’s truth is rejected long enough, God will allow man to believe whatever they want. He will allow man to do whatever he wants. That is what Paul says in Romans 1. Those who refused to acknowledge the truth and refused to acknowledge God, as God, have become futile in their thinking and their hearts have been darkened. 

Sadly, today we are looking at hearts that have been darkened by sinful choices and their thinking is futile as a result of rejecting God. They have become futile in their thinking which blocks truth. It is noteworthy that the word futile comes from a Latin root word that means “leaky.” Because they are futile in their thinking, they are incapable of producing any useful result. Why do we scratch our heads at some of the decisions those without Christ and those who have been captivated by demonic influences make? It is because their thinking is futile and is not producing any positive results. Their hearts have been darkened. That is why many can do horrific things without batting an eye or thinking twice about it. 

Secondly, in this process, we must not attack people but we must attack problems. That is why Paul states that our warfare is not of the flesh but it is spiritual. The enemy loves to get us to the point where we make the person the problem, but it is the spiritual dynamic that is at work and that makes the difference. Certain people are the tools of demonic influence but they are not the problem. The stronghold in their life is the problem. Rather than attack the person, we must address the spiritual influences that affect them so they are healed. 

Thirdly, we must pray for those who are darkened in their thinking. Judge Kavanaugh’s daughter had the right idea. We need to pray for those who would attack righteousness and a Godly worldview. I wonder if we realize how powerful a tool we have through prayer. Here is the problem so often. We are quick to post our views on Facebook, and talk around the tables at McDonalds, and the water cooler at work, but how much have we really prayed? How much have we humbled ourselves so that we are coming from the purity of a heart that is focused on God’s will and purpose? Certainly we are angry and we a filled with sadness about a process that has become convoluted. We are dismayed at the level of spiritual influence that is working against the knowledge of God, but in all of that we must focus our attention on our own heart. Last week we talked about giving grace. Grace is given when we humble ourselves before God and focus our attention upon Him with prayer.

2 Chronicles 7:14 comes to mind in this moment. Listen to God’s words. Then the LORD appeared to Solomon in the night and said to him: “I have heard your prayer and have chosen this place for myself as a house of sacrifice. When I shut up the heavens so that there is no rain, or command the locust to devour the land, or send pestilence among my people, if my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land. Now my eyes will be open and my ears attentive to the prayer that is made in this place. Did you notice what this says? If we do these things God will answer. There is hope in prayer. 

Fourth, we must destroy the arguments and lofty opinions about the knowledge of God. How do we do this? We present the truth. We live the truth. We breath the truth. Truth is the best way to destroy arguments and lofty opinions. Paul continues to tell us that we must take captive those thoughts which diminish the knowledge of God in our life. This is both a personal response and a corporate response. But, we cannot have a positive corporate response if we are not willing to deal with our own futile thinking and the places where our hearts are darkened. 

As we close, let me give you three things that help us take other thoughts captive and that should encourage us. First, God is the origin of all things. He is the creator of all the heavens and the earth. He has it under control. Secondly, He is the Lord of all things. Congress is not Lord! President Trumpet is not Lord! God is Lord. He has been and continues to be our Lord. The enemy’s work does not change the fact that He is the Lord of all things. Thirdly, we are accountable to Him for all that we do. One of the things that rubs man the wrong way is to present an authority higher than he is. We do not want to surrender to any one. We are our own god and we are self-sufficient to the degree that we do not need anyone else in our life. But we must recognize that we are not our own god. We live in authority to God who is higher than all of us. That brings healing and that brings us hope in a convoluted and a spiritually bankrupt world. 

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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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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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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How Easter Gives Hope

Peninsula Community  Church

How Easter Gives Hope

March 13, 2016

2 Corinthians 10:3-6 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.

This morning I am excited about this new series. Over the next few weeks we will look at how we can overcome strongholds and mindsets that hold us back from being what we need to be in Christ. This series is a natural outflow of the prayer series we just completed. You see through the movie “War Room” we were challenged to pray. Through small groups we have been challenged to understand the grace of God and the power of forgiveness.

Two weeks ago, we looked at the Lord’s Prayer to gain a greater understanding of how to pray effectively. As you remember, one of the key parts of the Lord’s prayer is praying that God’s kingdom would come and that His will would be done in us and in our circumstances. By praying this pray we are literally asking that God’s Kingdom and His will would invade everything about us. We pray He would invade our minds, our jobs, our relationships, our health issues, and so forth. The fact we are verbalizing the desire we have for Him to rule our life.

That brings us to our study today. While we sincerely pray and desire for the kingdom of God to be established in us, the fact of the matter is there are many kingdoms vying for that position. As we have read in our text today, Paul reminds us that we walk in the flesh. We live in a world that has been subjected to the power of sin and the rebellion of mankind. Because of this, we walk in the flesh and we are subjected to the work of the flesh in our lives. But Paul is also clear that even though we walk in the flesh, as passionate followers of Christ we have a set of weapons that can destroy the schemes of the enemy and the the strongholds that have been established in us.

So what is a stronghold? If you look at the second part our passage for today, you will find that Paul defines the idea of a stronghold. He states 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. So a stronghold is a mindset or thought process that controls our lives. It can be a sin we continue to confront, a shortcoming or failure we continue to experience, a past experience we can’t let go of, or a strong emotion such as fear, jealously, or anger that keeps surfacing. Without dealing with these strongholds they hang onto us and deter us from who we should be. They become a stumbling block and serve to defeat us rather than strengthening us.

As we look into this subject let me give a warning at this stage. We must never become so focused on spiritual strongholds or demonic activity that we fail to see that Christ is victorious in us. To do so gives credit to the enemy that he does not deserve. To do so allows us to justify our sin, our actions, and our negative thoughts. It is more effective to focus on His victory, His word, and His power in our life. That is the message of Easter and it is our message today.

With that said, let me dive into this subject. We must understand that while we have come into a relationship with Christ, we come into that relationship with baggage from our past. This baggage can include but is not limited to various mindsets, emotions that have not been healed, sins that have not been confessed, or a misconceived theology for living. As we live life we are also impacted and affected by the experiences we have and the people we encounter.

To fully understand this battle our discussion must not begin at the fall of mankind or focus on the post fall condition of man. We must begin our story earlier in the narrative. The fact is we must begin with the intent and desire of God in the creation. Therefore it is necessary to  begin with the creation and not the fall. That is why it is not a mistake that the Biblical story begins in Genesis 1:1. The first chapters of the Bible teach us that God created something beautiful and wonderful. After each day of creation, God proclaimed His work “good.”

But why start here? We do so because we need to be reminded that in creation we were fearfully and wonderfully made (Psalm 139:14). We were not only created out of the dirt of the earth, but we were created in the image of God. That should mean something to us. Because we are created in the image of God, we have value and we have a purpose. This also means that every life has value no matter who the person is. He made an amazing creation created in His image and filled with His breathe.

But as we know, by way of the historical perspective of the Bible, there was a problem. Because of the fall of mankind, what God created was contaminated by sin. If you will for a moment think about life in the Garden of Eden before the fall. Man walked with God and He had an acceptance with God and with each other. That was priceless. They walked in an innocence that was pure and perfect. In the Garden, man was called to have dominion over the earth and the animals of the earth. So, we find that in the Garden of Eden mankind had acceptance, he walked in innocence, and he had dominion over God’s creation.

But, as we know, that all changed on the day Adam and Eve sinned. All of life was pushed out of kilter. From that day forward what was once so easy for mankind had now become a battle. What God had given man and the essence of creation has been defamed and destroyed. With that said let me make sure that we know that while the situation has changed we are still valuable in the sight of God. We are still a creation of God. That is why the process of redemption is to restore mankind to His original purpose. Redemption provides us with acceptance. We are given  forgiveness which is restored innocence. And dominion over all of creation has been restored.

As we consider this in relationship to the theme of strongholds, we begin to realize that humankind’s attributes before the fall become glaring needs after the fall. First of all in the Garden mankind walked in acceptance. But after the fall acceptance by God and subsequently by others was replaced by rejection. The result was a need to belong and because of sin it became more difficult to feel accepted. The problem is exasperated when we are rejected over and over again. The result is that we begin to feel rejected as a person and we begin to think that rejection is a way of life for us. Because of the feeling of rejection we strive more and more to be accepted and loved. In our effort to be more accepted and loved we succumb to peer pressure to be liked and loved. If we are not careful we will do whatever it takes to be accepted by our peers, our coworkers and our family. We end up in a vicious cycle of wanting acceptance but we experience rejection. The result is that we allow a stronghold of rejection to establish a false kingdom in our heart. When this happens we filter our decisions and the actions of others through the filter of rejection. Because we feel rejected, we lose the will to try.

Secondly, because of the fall of mankind innocence was replaced by guilt and shame. The result is that too many people have a poor sense of self-worth therefore they strive to find their worth and value in people and things rather than in Christ. The advertisement world plays on the need for self worth. If you buy this car, shop at this store, wear this brand of clothes you will have worth and you will be accepted by your peers. Striving for a sense of worth can cause a stronghold to be established as we will do anything to feel worthy, even if it is a false worth. You see we strive for self-worth by doing things we believe will fill that void in our life. We work harder and do more and yet we feel more shame and guilt. To make things worse we begin to filter the activity of our through shame and guilt which inevitable brings more shame and guilt.

The third aspect here is that dominion was replaced by weakness and helplessness therefore we have a need for strength and self-control. People attempt to meet this need by disciplining themselves or by trying to control others. Trying to control others is in reality a symptom of insecurity and a lack of self worth. In essence, we try to satisfy the need for dominion by trying to control others. Control is a stronghold that is sin’s answer for lost dominion. On the other hand while we try to control others we also try to control ourselves. We do so through strict and extreme efforts to discipline one’s self and one’s actions. We try to manage sin rather than dealing with sin. The result is that we are led to a spirit of legalism, perfectionism, and self-destruction. Additionally, when we try to control ourselves and control others we are never satisfied so we try and control more. Thus the stronghold only gets stronger.

As we bring this to a close today, I read this week that as believers we are not trying to become saints we are saints who are becoming like Christ. That is so true. That is why we do everything we can to bring every thought into captivity to the glory of God. We filter everything not through the hurt or stronghold but through the filter of God’s word, His redemption, and His power. In our HVAC systems we have filters that take out contaminates and dust out of the air. If that filter becomes clogged it will not allow the air flow through the filter and then there are problems. The same goes for our mind as well. We need a new filtering system. That is what we will be talking about over the next few weeks.

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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Body, Soul and Spirit – Whatcha Thinking?

Peninsula Community Church

March 16, 2014

Philippians 4:8 Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.

A number of years ago I took a course on counseling where the teacher focused a portion of her teaching on what she described as stinking thinking. What she was communicated was that we can so easily allow our thinking to be manipulated and distorted by faulty thinking, lies and distortions. Our thinking can become distorted through the outside voices of our lives. These are the words spoken to us by a spouse, a friend, a parent, a boss, and others. This also includes the words we speak to ourselves. These are the inward voices of condemnation and distortion about who we are, what we are becoming, and about the circumstance of our lives.

Faulty thinking are those lies and distortions that we have allowed to enter our mind and eventually into our heart. Once a thought has entered the heart, the heart directed to action by that thought. 

The truth is, when we do not bring faulty thinking into captivity, we risk that thinking becoming a part of who we are. We risk having faulty thinking dictate our response to life. We risk having faulty thinking create a stronghold in us that refuses to allow the truth of God to settle within us. It fights against or it neutralizes the truth of God because of the power we give it.

What exactly is stinking thinking? Stinking thinking is a result of a truth being rooted in a false reality and/or deception. It is truth that has been distorted so that we are walking in deception and in blindness to the reality of God’s word and the way things could be and should be. Stinking thinking places more value on perception and distortion than on truth. Now let me say this to you. I understand that this thinking, at times, is all we know. It is all we understand. This is true because of the experiences we have had. This is true because of what we have been taught. This is true because of how our families trained us or what they modeled as truth. Sometimes, as a result of this we have been deceived to believe that there is no hope and that there is little or no way out of the bondage we find ourselves. While this is the way things are, it does not mean we have to stay in this place.

Let’s do an evaluation. And be honest. Are you a pessimist or an optimist. Is your glass half full or is it half empty. The problem too often is that even an optimist can be a pessimist at heart. They present a good front but when they are alone they beat themselves up and distort the truth about who they are. When you encounter a difficult issue what kind of thoughts do you have? When someone mistreats you, what kind of thoughts do you have? Do you live positively or negatively? Have you ever known someone who always considered the negative side of things or the worse case scenario on anything and everything. When confronted with a negative, do you throw your hands up in despair and believe there is no hope and all is lost. It is my belief, and I believe that scripture bears this out, that one of the tools that the enemy of our souls will use in the last days is despair and hopelessness. When we walk in despair and hopelessness, we will be distracted and miss the good that God is doing in us and through us which leads us into deeper confusion.

Before we move forward with this let me say that there is more to this than just adjusting our thinking. Changing our thinking must lead to a change of action. This requires us to get the truth established in our minds so that we act out the truth of God’s word. We must surround ourselves with the disciplines of right thinking, prayer, and study of the word. Our actions must be motivated to change and align themselves with God’s will or else we will miss the mark. 

The apostle Paul is clear about where the focus of our thinking should be. Paul sets forth the parameters and the template through which we can begin to take every thought captive to the glory of God. Paul’s admonition is to think on the right things. Paul instructs us on how to change our thinking. We are to think or meditate on:  what is true, honorable, just, pure, lovely, commendable, excellent, and worthy of praise

The first item on Paul’s list is to think on what is true. The root word for true means “constant.” It means to be found unwavering. It also means to be upright. Having this word first is not a mistake because the truth effects everything else. At least two realities are revealed. First, there must be a solid, nonnegotiable point of truth in our life. Our current society has made a tragic mistake in that they believe that truth has become relative to one’s own processes and what one thinks truth is. But, we must have a mooring for truth, or else we can believe anything and everything. We have people, yes even Christians who believe anything because they have had someone share it or say it and they take it face value. There is no filter for truth in their life.

Jack Graham in his book “Unseen” had this to say about this. He stated “The reason we need to focus on truth is that “for every action you take, your brain creates a neurological pathway that paves the way for familiarity, so that the next time you take that action, your mind already knows what to do.”

We also must resist the pragmatism of our culture, which determines truth by whatever works. If something works, which means, it brings you happiness (at least at the moment) or it accomplishes what you want, then it must be true. But God’s Word doesn’t always line up with what works. In fact, it’s clear that sin often brings pleasure for a season; if it didn’t we wouldn’t be so enticed by it.

It also means that we are not to be naive about life. He does not say to be positive thinkers, but we are to be truthful thinkers. We do not reject reality but rather we focus honestly and factually on the issues we face. Sometimes we need to ask ourselves a question. The thing that I am entertaining, is it true? Is that the way my spouse, my friend, my boss would act? Did they really mean that? Sometimes we continue to feed ourselves falsehoods and lies. We begin to entertain imaginations about others but we must meditate on what is truthful. 

If we want to be a better person and have a better sense of life then begin with truth as a gateway to right thinking. This means we must eradicate the lies that are presented to us. Lies about ourselves. Lies about God. Lies about those with whom we are relationship with. Lies about our goals and reason for living. You see as fallen creatures we are subjected to Satan’s lies and deception. We are prone to self deception. Remember that the devil, sleuth foot, satan, whatever you call him is the master at distortion. He can take even precious spiritual traits and ideals and distort them so that we believe a half truth.

Listen to what John 8:44-47 has to say about this matter. You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies. But because I tell the truth, you do not believe me. Which one of you convicts me of sin? If I tell the truth, why do you not believe me? Whoever is of God hears the words of God. The reason why you do not hear them is that you are not of God.”

How do we know the truth? We read the word of God because contained within these words are the ways of life. How to live. How to act. How to freely live. For that reason, we must pour  ourselves into God’s Word and allow God’s Word to be poured into us. We should know the Word so well that we automatically run everything we encounter through the grid of God’s Word. However, if you go with the flow, you will be carried far from God’s absolute standard of moral truth as revealed in His Word.

Recently, someone shared a story about a letter they had received that devastated them. It had wounded them deeply because of the words written within the context of the letter. After we talked, I made a suggestion to them. If you do not need to keep the letter throw it away because every time you read it, it will cause a negative reaction. If you feel you do need to keep the letter, put it in an envelop, seal the envelop, scotch tape it closed and never read the letter again unless you have to. In this way, the truth of God’s love and purpose cannot be distorted in your life. 

As I close, let me ask you what things do you need to throw away? What things do you need to seal away so they do not impact your heart or mind again? What kind of unhealthy thinking do you have. Let us pray.

 

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