Monthly Archives: December 2014

Ephesians – The Qualities of a Spiritual Walk

Peninsula Community Church

Ephesians – The Qualities of a Spiritual Walk

December 28, 2014

Ephesians 4:1-3 – I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.

This morning we will begin our study of Ephesians once again. In the first three chapters, we find that Paul details much of the doctrine used by the church today. In the last three chapters, we find that Paul begins to look at the practicality of applying the truths that have been presented in the first three chapters. In many ways, what Paul details in the first three chapters he shows us how to live out in the last three chapters.

It is for this reason that Paul begins chapter four with an explanation of how we should walk out our faith to which we have been called and the grace that has been given to us. Paul begins by identifying himself with the fact that he is a prisoner of the Lord. Paul was a prisoner of the Lord not only in his spiritual position but much of his writings took place while he was a prisoner for the cause of Christ. Paul wrote this letter while under house arrest in Rome. It is of note that what the world considered a shame and a worse case scenario, Paul considered a high honor. To be a prisoner was not what someone desired. It was not the desired existence that one would seek. But Paul wanted everyone to know that his state of existence was not a hindrance but a blessing. This is a critical point to the rest of the Book of Ephesians in that Paul was writing these last three chapters from his philosophical understanding of being a prisoner. Paul is indirectly speaking to us that whatever your state of existence is in life it does not have to be a hindrance but rather it can be the very thing that God uses.

From this perspective Paul urges the church at Ephesus to walk in a manner worthy of the vocation to which they have been called. Who is he talking to here? He is talking to the believer, the one who knows Christ. Walk like you are somebody. Walk like you understand the calling that is yours. Walk like you have been given a great gift and a great opportunity. In other words let the pace, style, and character of your walk match the calling to be a believer.

Please note here that Paul is not referring to one’s calling in terms of ministry but one’s calling as a believer in Christ. You see we must be careful and not segregate our lives in terms of the sacred and the secular. While walking worthy in our professional calling is important and critical we must also understand that our daily walk before the Lord is also critical.

The basis of this walking in our calling does not mean that we work to deserve our place in God’s favor but rather it means that we must recognize how much our place in God’s favor determines who and whose we are. You see the focus is not on our worth but on the worth of our calling. And the worth of the one calling us. You see we have been chosen and called by God for great things. We need to walk in a way that honors the calling of God in us. In so doing, we are not subjected to legalism but rather we are walking in the freedom that is ours in Christ and thus we find it a joy to serve God.

So how do we do this? Paul lists five key qualities we should exhibit as we walk in the calling of God. The first is we are to walk with humility and gentleness. While these are two separate qualities, Paul joins them together. The idea of humility is the same word that many texts translate as “lowliness.” This quality of lowliness is juxtaposed to pride and snootiness which is the way the world most often implores us to get ahead or to accomplish the tasks that are before us. As we look at the church, we are reminded that Christ is the Lord and the head of the church. To walk in humility is to understand who we are and what we are about otherwise we will try to circumvent Christ’s leadership/headship over the church and in us. True humility is an accurate appraisal of who we are. We can have a higher assessment of our lives than reality shows or we can have a lower assessment of who we are. Pride exists on both extremes.

The second quality here is gentleness. The idea here is that we are not harsh or demeaning in our approach to people especially those outside the church. The idea of gentle here is the same word as meek which is often used as a definition of the term gentle. This was a term that described Jesus. He was described as being meek and lowly (Matthew 11:29). This was also a term that described Moses as well in Numbers 12:3. Here it is said “Now the man Moses was very meek, more than all people who were on the face of the earth.” In the world’s eyes gentleness or meekness is a weakness rather than a strength. But in the context of spiritual blessing it is a benefit that is to be desired. I recently heard a quote that was awesome. I must admit to you that I heard it on the TV show Criminal Minds. It said “nothing is so strong as gentleness, and nothing is as gentle as real strength.” The idea of gentleness is the idea that we do not provoke others to anger nor are we easily provoked or offended ourselves. Meekness is in reality strength under control.

The third quality is patience. Patience is an amazing word. Patience carries with it the idea of endurance. It is the idea of pressing through without losing our cool. How many would say that there is certainly enough in the world today to lose our cool about? Of course most of us have heard the saying, “don’t pray for patience as the only way to gain patience is to go through problems.” Of course I beg to differ with this statement a bit. I believe that we go through things so that we know that God has worked patience in us not to develop patience. You see by going through the issues of life we quickly can measure our spiritual depth of patience. When confronted by adverse conditions in our life do we lose our cool. If so, why? What triggered that response in us. One of the key areas we must exhibit patience is in the imperfections of others. In the end we must remember that patience is a gift of the Spirit that is ours for the asking (Galatians 5:22). While it must be developed, it is already ours in Christ.

The fourth quality is that we are to bear with one another in love. Notice once again that we are not just to bear with one another but we are to do so in love. How many know that people will disappoint us and will do things that we will not understand? But no matter what one does we are to bear with them in love. The word bear is the same word as to have long-suffering. In other words, we don’t give up on people easily. We are to bear with them for the long haul. Love is what allows us to bear with another. Note however that this does not mean that we accept their sin or abuse in our lives. We recognize however that they are in need of a touch of God in their lives.

The fifth quality is that we are to be eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. The amazing thing here is that the unity of the spirit exists as a core element of what God does in us. The truth is that while unity is evident in the residence of the Holy Spirit in us who works through us, we must maintain the unity of the spirit. We must strive to to keep the unity of the Spirit. Why is this important? It is critical because when we live in disunity or disharmony, the doorway for the enemy is opened and and we give room for the enemy to invade our church, our lives, and our relationships. The word strive means to work out it. We are to be aware of the things that cause disunity in the body and those things which cause division. Peace is not the lack of contention but rather peace comes in the midst of difficulty and trial. The end result is that God desires that we have unity in the church. He wants to accomplish this by us walking in the gifts that God has given us.

So let’s get down to business here. How are you doing at exhibiting these qualities? Paul’s exhortation is for us to walk in these things. We are to walk worthy of our calling. We are to walk in a gentle and humble spirit. We are to walk in patience. We are to bear one another with love. We are to maintain  the unity of the spirit.

This is how God wants His church to grow and to be seen by the world. For much of these things we cringe because we struggle in them. But we must remember that the Holy Spirit is in us as believers and that is where we get our strength and ability to do these things. Sometimes these things seem impossible but we are capable of accomplishing them all through the power of the Holy Spirit.

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Copyright © 2014 All Rights Reserved Robert W. Odom

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Fear Not – Fear of Where You Stand With God

Peninsula Community Church

Fear Not – Fear of Where You Stand With God 

December 21, 2014

This is the last installment of our three part series called “Fear Not.” As noted earlier, I have borrowed some of Craig Groeschel’s outline but have added my points to that. In the first installment, we looked at Mary and the fear of responding to God’s call in our life. Last week, we looked at the fear of people and this week, we will look at fearing where we stand with God.

To do that let us begin by looking at the proclamation given to the shepherds. Luke 2:8-11 And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with great fear. And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.

At first glance this does not appear to be a big deal because when we interpret this passage through our 21st century lens we cannot comprehend the magnitude of this appearance to the shepherds. You see the religious leaders of the day held a negative and at times a hostile view of shepherds. What was once an acceptable profession, during the time of the patriarchs, had evolved to an unacceptable profession. Everything changed for the shepherd during the 400 years of Jewish captivity in Egypt. The Egyptians despised shepherds. They considered them to be the lowest class of citizen to ever live. This concept of the shepherd carried over to the Children of Israel when they were delivered from Egypt.

During Jesus time, the religious leaders of the day had a similar view of the shepherds. The religious leaders believed the shepherd was on the bottom rung of the social ladder. The shepherd’s status was a product of religious judgment and of society’s rejection of them. Thus they were an isolated group of people. The shepherds were mistrusted and were quite often considered to be thieves. Some of them earned this title while others were stereotyped this way. The shepherd was mistrusted to the point they would not be considered as a witness in a trial because of their perceived lack of trustworthiness. And yet, this is the very people God chose to send the angels to. How amazing is that?

There is another interesting note here worthy of our consideration. In those days, the wealthy would hire a herald who would go throughout the land to announce the birth of their child. It is interesting here that God chose to send a herald, by way of the angels, to the very ones who could afford it in the least. I believe this is in keeping with the first message Jesus preached. In Luke 4:18-19 Jesus proclaimed these words. The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.

How awesome is it that the angels were sent to the least likely people on earth. The angel came to those who battled with whether or not they were good enough to find God. The shepherd struggled with their sense of being good enough to earn God’s favor and His love. Since they had been rejected by the representatives of God they assumed they had been rejected by God.

This applies to us as well as the one great fear that many believers have is whether or not they will be accepted by God. Let me ask you “have you ever felt that you were not good enough for God.” In preparing for this message, one of the things I remember about Vince is that in his latter days he dealt with this idea of being accepted by God. He felt that he had burned too many bridges, that he had done too much wrong for God to accept him. I was able to share with him that there is nothing that we can do that would prevent God from receiving us and bringing us into right relationship with him. Paul in Romans 8 reminded us of this truth in that there is nothing that can separate us from the love of God. We have said this before, God does not just love us, He is love. We can certainly walk away from God and remove ourselves from His blessing but He never stops loving us.

The reason we question God’s acceptance of us is threefold. First, we feel unworthy. The  shepherds’ experiences had taught them that they were not good enough for God. The religious leaders reinforced this emotional bondage. The problem, however, is that they were confusing religion with relationship. For example, in their day, the keeping of the Sabbath was a religious duty shepherds could not keep because they worked twenty-four hours a day. They could not offer sacrifices at the temple which was the requirement of the day. The result was that they could not be right with God because of their failure to perform their religious duties.

It is noteworthy that it was possible that they were watching the very sheep that would be offered in sacrifice. You see, while they were considered to be physically dirty, they were also considered to be spiritually dirty, so much so that a religious person would not even touch a shepherd because they would be considered unclean. You can only imagine how unworthy that made them feel. The reality is that many of us feel the same way. We try to come to church but we are faced with the things we have done or for that matter not done. Then we look at everyone else and think that they are so holy and righteous. The result is we feel unworthy of God’s love and grace.

Secondly, we feel inadequate. The shepherds were uneducated. They were dirty and smelly. They felt like they never measured up to society’s standard.. They were forced there emotionally by society and by the religious leaders of the day. They were comparing themselves to the religious leaders of the day and knew they could not measure up which was the worse thing they could do. The best way to feel inadequate is to compare ourselves to others. Perception is a powerful tool of destruction. We look around and we think that everyone else around us has it all together. But the fact is, we don’t know what the other person near us is facing. We do not know the emotional turmoil they might be in.

How about you? When you look around, do you see people who seem close to God. They have a Bible verse for every situation. They prayer prayers that are powerful and you are thinking that the last time you prayed was “God help me not to kill this person who took my parking place.”  Too often we feel so unspiritual. This happens too often when we compare ourselves with others rather than to God.

In our society today, we believe that if we are only good enough God will accept us but the more we do the more we feel inadequate. Michelle and I love to watch Christmas movies, especially Hallmark movies. As I have watched this year, I have found that most of the movies fall into one of two categories. An angel appears and makes everything right or the theme is be good enough or do all the right things and you will be accepted. In real life however, we keep doing good things and nothing changes in our heart, we only find that we must do more things. This all leads to a greater feeling of inadequacy.

Thirdly, we feel unloved. The shepherds were not accepted so they felt unloved. Can you imagine what they may have thought? Here they are the hill side listening to the laughter and music coming from the city. They hear that the people are having a good time, but they have to be out on the hillside watching these stinking sheep. As they listened to the sounds coming from the town, their hearts would be effected and the sense of a lack of love would grow. I thought of the story of the Grinch. I remember the one with Jim Carey as the Grinch is at the top of the mountain where he lived and he was listening to the celebration going on in Whoville. You could witness in that moment his need for love but he was rejected.

I know many of us have so many different stories about life. Too often these events cause us to feel unloved and unaccepted. A spouse has left us or had deceived us. A child has rebelled. An employer has laid us off. For some of us it is not a matter of others loving us but when we look in the mirror and we do not love the person we see. You think if people don’t love me, and I don’t love myself how is God going to love me?

The religion of the day did not work for the shepherds and it will not work for us today either. You see Jesus did not come to offer religion he came to have a relationship with us.  He came to set us free from religion and to give us something so much better. You see religion reduces Christianity down to a set of rules and a list of dos and don’ts. The more we try the worse things get.

But, here is the “Good News.” Righteousness comes from God alone as we commit our ways to His ways. He forgives and He leads us. You cannot earn God’s acceptance by observing the law. The purpose of the law is to show your need for a savior. Righteousness with God comes by faith in Christ alone and acceptance through a relationship with Him. That is the good news.

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Copyright © 2014 All Rights Reserved Robert W. Odom

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Fear Not What People Think

Peninsula Community Church

December 14, 2014

Fear Not what People Think

This week we will continue our Christmas series entitled “Fear Not.” While we looked at the angel’s proclamation to Mary last week, this week we will look at the proclamation given to Joseph. You see Mary was not the only one that was being challenged by the interruption of God. This week we will focus on Joseph and the fear of what people think of us.

Let’s read together. Matthew 1:18-23 Now the birth of Jesus Christ took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit. And her husband Joseph, being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to divorce her quietly. But as he considered these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet: “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel”

Just as Mary was living her life as usual, Joseph was also going about his life as he always did. I am sure that he was also planning for his and Mary’s wedding and their future together. I can imagine that he was building their home as well as the furniture that would go inside. After all he was a carpenter. But his world was shattered by the news of Mary’s pregnancy. The text does not spell out his reactions to this news but being a man I can only imagine that he was experiencing a plethora of emotions. I am sure he was confused and nervous. I am sure that he was filled with the fear that he would be judged and criticized for what Mary had done. He could have thought that Mary was a bit crazy or she was at least a liar. I am sure that he was worried about what people would think as this was a big deal in his day.

As we look at this, we must understand that our fear of what people think of us can lead us to make bad decisions. The reason for this is that we will either do things so people like us or because we do not want them to think badly of us. Not only was Joseph struggling in the present but he was also concerned about his future. This was very serious for him. It was humiliating. As a man, this action would cause there to be a social stigma upon him. I am sure his mind was filled with questions and concerns. Would he have to divorce Mary? If so, would he ever marry again? Would there ever be a father who would trust him with his daughter, again? Would he be mocked by his friends and family because of Mary’s actions? What would people think when they hear that Mary is pregnant by the Holy Spirit? Would anyone believe it? Would his family, friends, and acquaintances think she had lost it and would he, as a man, ever live this down. Joseph was in fact engaging in the very thing that Mary had to confront, the fear of the “what if’s.” But in this case it was the “what ifs” of what people might think.

You see while breaking the engagement was serious for Mary, it also had serious implications for Joseph, as well. Joseph had to battle doing what was easy versus doing what was right and between what people wanted him to do versus what God wanted him to do. The fact of the matter is he wants to bail from the relationship. He wants to call it quits. His desire was to just move on and let it play out. We see in this passage that he decides to divorce her quietly and honorably. As he is pondering these things however, the angel of the Lord appears and proclaims the following. “Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet: “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel” Through the proclamation, the angel confirmed that what Mary was saying was indeed true. The angel was clear in the calling of Mary but also in Joseph’s destiny as this son would claim Joseph as His father.

Once Joseph hears these words he is faced with a decision. Would he listen to the skeptics who are calling for him to follow the law and divorce her? Would he listen to those who were pushing him to have her stoned because of her actions and the fact that she appeared to be crazy? Would they believe him that he had received the same proclamation? There is no doubt that Joseph battled obedience to God versus following the voices of those around him. But as we know Joseph did what was right and honorable. He obeyed God and followed His will. How do we know this? We see it Matthew 1:24 “When Joseph woke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him: he took his wife, but knew her not until she had given birth to a son. And he called his name Jesus.”

As we look at this story, we learn that in pleasing God we often disappoint people. People sometimes want us to do things that come in nice little packages but things do not always happen that way. As a believer, we can be confronted with the the opportunity to obey God or do something easier to win the approval of people. The fact is when we walk in the fear of disappointing people or getting the approval of people, we can fail to please God which is our highest goal and aim in life.

The problem that arises is that we allow people to control our lives rather than God having control. The fear of what people think can bind us to the point that we fail to a accomplish the task God has called us to. Now let me hasten to say that this does not mean that we are like a bunch of bulls in a china shop where we force our way onto people or we do not have concern for others, as that is also contrary to Scripture. But there is an issue when all we do is to seek man’s approval or his blessing.

Secondly, becoming obsessed with what people think about you is the quickest way to forget what God thinks about you but being obsessed with what God thinks about you is the quickest way to forget what people think about you. The writer of Proverbs said it best. The fear of man lays a snare, but whoever trusts in the Lord is safe (Proverbs 29:25). When we fear people and we become obsessed about what people think of us, we start down a slippery slope of trusting people’s opinions more than we trust God’s promises and His will. How do we know that we are drifting towards wanting to please people? First, we are afraid to make the changes in our life that are necessary because we are afraid of what  people may think. Second, our first response to any issue is to worry about what someone will say or do rather than doing what is right in the sight of God. Third, we seek people’s approval and measure our success by that approval. Fourth, we go with the flow rather than standing on what is right. We develop a mob or group think mentality. We also begin to say things like: What will they think of me? Do they like me? Do they like what I am doing? Many of these things are never verbalized but they are a part of our inner psyche. The result is that we surrender our lives to the opinions of people, at the expense of pleasing and honoring God.

Let me let you in on a secret that will relieve you of much of the pressure and fear of trying to please everyone. Here is a truth you can take to the bank. You cannot please everyone all of the time so stop trying to make that happen. In pleasing one, person, you make another person unhappy. I have seen this played out in my life in so many ways. I can remember people telling me that my messages are too long while another tells me they are too short. I have some say that I use too many personal illustrations while others feel connected to the message because of my personal examples. Some have complained about not singing hymns enough only to complain that we did not sing the particular hymn they like. We cannot please all of the people all of the time, so seek to please God instead.

Living for God instead of people is a challenge for us. The reason is that if your are not ready to be criticized for your obedience to God, you are not ready to be used by God. Fear binds us and we settle for the status quo. When God calls us, He needs people who are ready to answer His call without reservation. In this regard, I was drawn to the story of the twelve spies. The twelve spies see the giants in the land and feared. But two of the spies, Joshua and Caleb, are willing to take the risk of going against the majority because they had faith in God. Because of fear and a bad report from the other ten, a whole generation was not allowed to go into the promised land. Matthew expressed it this way. And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell (Matthew 10:28).

The second thing that occurs is that extraordinary acts of God often start with ordinary acts of obedience. What a testimony of faith and love. Joseph chose to do the right thing even though it hurt and could potentially cause great problems for him. He chose to obey God rather than fear man. He took an ordinary act of obedience and trusted God. Remember our statement last week. Our responsibility is obedience. God’s responsible is for the outcome. Too often we believe that God will ask us to take giant steps, which can be true, but most often he is calling us to take tiny ordinary steps that lead to extraordinary results. God takes our little and multiplies it.

So how about you? Do you fear people’s opinions or do you trust God to lead your life regardless of what happens?

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Copyright © 2014 All Rights Reserved Robert W. Odom

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Fear Not – Christmas Series – Part 1

Peninsula Community Church

December 7, 2014

Fear Not!

Today, we begin a short three week series entitled “Fear not.” As we begin this, I must confess that some of my thoughts come from a message presented by Craig Groeschel of Life Church. While I may use some of his outline, the meat is mine as directed by the Holy Spirit. The focus of the series will on the the proclamations given by the angels who announced the birth of the Savior. As we read each story we find that each message given was one of hope and promise. And yet, each one receiving the news experienced a level of fear. For that reason, in each proclamation we hear these words of hope “fear not.”

This morning, we will look at the first of these proclamations. It comes to a young teenage girl named Mary. Let’s read together. Luke 1-26-35 In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. And the virgin’s name was Mary. And he came to her and said, “Greetings, O favored one, the Lord is with you!” But she was greatly troubled at the saying, and tried to discern what sort of greeting this might be. And the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.” And Mary said to the angel, “How will this be, since I am a virgin?” And the angel answered her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy— the Son of God.

Notice what transpires here in this conversation with the angel. The angel proclaims that Mary is highly favored. You would think that she would be excited about this but she is troubled by what she hears. The angel however encourages Mary, “Do not be afraid, for you have found favor with God.” Twice the angel proclaims that Mary has God’s favor. You would think that this message would bring joy to Mary’s heart but she has an opposite response. The truth is, when God calls us to engage in His will, we can be troubled and have a level of fear. Fear is a natural reaction. It can overwhelm us and cause us to panic. It can be so powerful that it will prevent us from accomplishing the tasks given to us by God.

Why is fear such an obstacle to us? Fear is an obstacle because it is the act of placing our faith in the wrong thing. Let me explain. We have heard it said that fear is the absence of faith but I would argue this morning that fear is placing our faith in the “what if’s” of life rather than the promises of God. I am sure that you are familiar with how this goes. What if I give my life to Him and then things don’t go the way I want? What if I lose my job? What if the economy disintegrates and I lose everything? What if I share my faith and no one gets saved? What if I teach that Sunday School class and no one is interested? We could go on and on but I think you understand. You see fear is placing our faith in the worse case scenarios. Rather than having faith in the best that God has planned for you, we would rather trust in the what ifs and the potential negative outcomes that may never happen. The result is we are bound by fear and not faith. Therefore, we become powerless to achieve God’s will. But let me let you in on a secret. God has not given us a spirit of fear. He has given us a spirit of power, love, and sound mind  or self-control (2 Timothy 1:6).

To diminish the power of fear let’s look at a couple of truths. First, God’s interruptions are always inconvenient. Have you ever thought about the story of Mary. She was a young girl who was probably somewhere around 15 or 16 years old. She had been promised in marriage to Joseph. In her day this was a big deal. You see the engagement period would last a whole year. It was the couple’s time to plan for the wedding and begin to set up their home once they are married. With that in mind, I am sure that she was excited about planning her wedding. She was thinking of all the things that would make her wedding day so special. The fact, is she did not need this interruption from planning her wedding and her future with Joseph, but it came.

While we view such things as interruptions, God sees them as an invitation to a God size adventure. You see when we feel God is interrupting our lives, He in fact is inviting us to something bigger, higher, and better in the scope of eternity. Think about all of the people through the Bible whose lives were interrupted by God. Moses was watching sheep on the backside of the dessert when he was called to be the deliverer of the Children of Israel. Abraham was enjoying the good life when he was called to a new home. David was tending his dad’s flock when he was called to be the king. Saul was on his way to punish more Christians when God called him as one of the greatest missionaries of all time. The problem is that too often we shake off God’s invitations by calling them interruptions when God really wants to do something new and different in our lives. In recognizing God’s interruptions, God will take us to new places, to do new things. Gloria Gaither once stated that God has always been in the interruptions of her of life. It is there that God has used her most.

Secondly, God does not just interrupt us but His purposes are often different than our plans. Can you imagine how Mary must have moved from ecstatic joy of knowing that she would be the mother of Messiah to suddenly being shaken by what people would think. What would her family think? What would Joseph think? Will he believe my story? You see in that day to be pregnant out if wedlock was a sin punishable by death. The consequences were huge.

Can you imagine her telling Joseph? I wonder if the conversation went something like this. “Hey Joe I have something to tell you and you might want to sit down? Joe, I’m pregnant.” Joseph most likely would have responded with “How did this happen? I know I am not the father, so who is the dad?” Mary’s immediate response was “Well it is the Holy Spirit.” Perhaps Joseph laughed at first. Regardless of his response we know that in time Joseph accepted his role as the father.

Here is the lesson for us. What we think is a curse can become a blessing in the economy of God’s will. This reminds me of Joseph’s experience in the Old Testament. He was rejected by his brothers. He was sold into slavery. He was falsely accused. He was sent to prison. He was forgotten. Promises were broken. But in it all God had not forgotten him. When he was reunited with his family, he could proclaim that what was intended for evil God had turned to good (Genesis 50:20-21). God’s intent was to bring life to his family and he needed Joseph in this place to make this happen. The only way he could do this was to allow Joseph to go through all of the set backs he experienced so that he could be promoted and placed in a position to save His family. Jeremiah said it best. For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope (Jeremiah 29:11).

His invitation is to do something different because His purposes are always different than your plans. Your response to God may be the same as Mary’s. How can this be? I don’t see how this can be possible. I don’t see how God can work in my life. It is impossible for me to forgive that person that has wounded me so deeply. God I don’t believe that you can heal my marriage. I don’t believe that you can heal the brokenness of my life. I have this physical ailment and I don’t know what I am going to do. My finances are a mess and there is no hope. Here is the fact that we can hold onto. Nothing is impossible with God. He can do the impossible but it will change your plans. And whatever comes, God can use it for His glory.

You might ask, what is our role in all of this? You see we must be obedient to God’s word, His will, and His ways. If God is asking you to take a step of faith then here are two points you need to hear and apply to your situation. God is responsible for the outcome. We are responsible to be obedient. The fact is we cannot predict the outcome of the things we trust God for, but we can trust the outcome to God. It is His responsibility. If you do what the Word calls you to do first then you will be directed more than you think.

I can guarantee you that there will be a time that God is going to call you to trust Him with your life or a decision. He may put a ministry on your mind. He may be calling you to teach the youth or children of our church. You may not understand how you can do it, but trust Him with your decision. Take the step of faith and watch God do the impossible. To accomplish His will, we need to surrender to Him just like this teenage girl did 2000 years ago. He interrupted her life for a higher purpose and a higher calling. He interrupted her life with a purpose much greater than she ever imagined. In her mind, she could not imagine how this would work out but she had to remember that she needed to trust God as all things are possible with her God. As we now know, she trusted God and the world was changed forever.

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Copyright © 2014 All Rights Reserved Robert W. Odom

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Why Be Thankful?

Peninsula Community Church

November 30, 2014

Why Be Thankful

Luke 17:11-19On the way to Jerusalem he was passing along between Samaria and Galilee. And as he entered a village, he was met by ten lepers, who stood at a distance and lifted up their voices, saying, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us.” When he saw them he said to them, “Go and show yourselves to the priests.” And as they went they were cleansed. Then one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, praising God with a loud voice; and he fell on his face at Jesus feet, giving him thanks. Now he was a Samaritan. Then Jesus answered, “Were not ten cleansed? Where are the nine? Was no one found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?” And he said to him, “Rise and go your way; your faith has made you well.”

As we look at this story, it is important to look at some of the key points found in the text. The first key point that we find is that the story occurred in between the two regions of Samaria and Galilee. The roads in this area were often packed with beggars, those who were sick, those with severe illnesses such blindness and debilitating physical issues, as well as robbers and thieves. In Jesus day, it was a popular road for travel so it made it a great place for those who were in need to sell their wares and beg for money.

The second key point of this story is that there were ten lepers. We do not know how long they had been lepers, but in Jesus’ day lepers were outcasts. They were forced into isolation or leper colonies by both society and the religious leaders. It was a common practice orchestrated by the religious leaders to pronounce a leper to be dead even though they still had life in them. In some ways this was understandable because little was known about the disease at that time. Those who contracted leprosy would see their muscles and nerves being effected which caused skin scaling and deterioration. The person with leprosy would often injure themselves to the degree that they would lose toes and fingers because they had little or no feeling in their extremities. Since the healing process was slowed down by the disease, they would often have open sores and lesions on their bodies.

It is noteworthy that the ten lepers recognized Jesus right away and began to call out for Him to have mercy on them. We only know the nationality of the one the leper but if the others were Jews it is interesting that the pain of their disease brought them together when their heritage and social standing separated them. You see the Samaritans and the Jews were not friendly toward each other. In fact, they despised one another with a better hatred.

The third key point is that Jesus sent them to the priests for confirmation of the healing. While they were outcasts, notice what Jesus did. It is kind of interesting. Jesus never laid his hands on them. He never prayed for them. He simply commanded them to go see the priests. Now, this may seem to be a strange command but in that day the priest was the only one who had the authority to make the pronouncement that a leper had been healed.

The fourth key point is that they were healed only as they obeyed Jesus to go to the priests. In their obedience, God healed them. It was not until they turned to go to the priest that they were healed. You see their actions spoke of their faith and as a result of their faith, they were cleansed. As we will see here a moment, while the outward sign of their leprosy was gone it appears that the inward man was untouched and unchanged.

The fifth key point of this passage is that of the ten lepers who were cleansed, only one returned to give Jesus thanks for what had occurred. We don’t know why this was so, but he was the only one. It is interesting to note as well that the one that returned was a Samaritan. According to the societal norms of that day, he had two strikes against him. For one, he was a leper and secondly, he was a Samaritan. And yet, He chose to be thankful and express that thanks to Christ.

When he returned to give thanks, Jesus makes a proclamation. Jesus proclaimed “Your faith has made you well.” The word used here in comparison to the word used for the nine who were cleansed meant that he was healed not only physically but he was healed mentally and emotionally. The Greek word SOZA, which is often used for our English word “salvation”, means complete and whole. So it appears that he was not just healed of his physical issues but also from the internal scars and mental depression caused by the disease of leprosy and the rejection he faced from society.

We have read the story but what lessons do we gain from this as it relates to thanksgiving. Well let me list three for you. First, by having a thankful heart we are reminded of God’s gift of grace. Too often, we get to the place where we feel we do not have much to thank God for, but when we remember His grace we are reminded of just how much we do have to be thankful for. You see, it is my opinion that Jesus did not have to heal these lepers but He did.

For whatever reason, He chose to touch these lepers. You see the lepers were helpless to change their plight. They had no control over their destiny because they had been ostracized and were considered to be dead by the religious community. But God, who was rich in grace chose to speak life to them. They did not deserve it by society’s norms but God does not measure man’s worthiness by the norms established by society or by the culture of the day. For most in that day, it would have been easy to condemn and judge the lepers, but Jesus did not. Jesus looked upon them with compassion and mercy and He healed them.

So let me ask you, where have you seen the grace of God in your life? It is there even though it is not always evident. We can and should therefore offer great thanksgiving for what God has done even when we did not deserve it. You are saved by His grace. You are guided by His grace. You are given great gifts and benefits by His grace. We have so much to be thankful for. Have you expressed that thanks to the Father who gives good gifts from above?

Second, by having a thankful heart we do not take things for granted. It is amazing that only one of the ten lepers returned to give thanks for their healing. Now it is possible that in their excitement that the other nine forgot about giving thanks personally. It is possible that they had been sick for so long that all they thought about was getting to the priest to be proclaimed clean. No matter the reason, they did not return to say thanks. The problem is that when we fail to be grateful, we can become selfish and self absorbed. Too often, we forget the blessings of God and take what God and what others have done us for granted. Let me ask you, have you ever blessed someone with a gift or shown them great grace only to find that they failed to ever give you thanks. Now certainly, we don’t do things to receive thanks, but we have all experienced that time in our life where we were hurt by one’s ungratefulness.

But, when we have a grateful heart, we will be focused on the greatness and kindness of God because we are reminded of what He has created for us and what He has provided for us. In the passage before us, Jesus spoke the word and they were healed. They all had something to be grateful for but only one expressed that thanksgiving to Christ. While the others may have intended to do so or may have been grateful in their hearts, they did not voice their thanks. The one leper who returned thanked God exuberantly. He lifted his thanks with a loud voice and a bended knee. Needless to say he was excited and grateful for his healing.

Third, by being thankful we experience healing, strength, and transformation. There is something amazing about having a grateful heart. A grateful heart is a glad heart and it brings healing not just to our body but to our spirit as well. Gratitude heals, energizes, and transforms lives. The opposite can occur as well. In Romans 1:21 we see this illustrated. For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Because of a thankless heart, they became futile  and their thinking became muddled. It is noteworthy that scientific studies have concluded that those who have a grateful heart are more optimistic and feel better about their lives than those who are not grateful. Those with a grateful heart tend to exercise more and tend to have fewer visits to physicians than those who focused on their aggravations and those who are discontented with life.

Look at the one leper who returned to give thanks! Jesus proclaimed he was healed. As noted before, the word used here is “SOZA.” It means to be made complete or totally healed. This leper was completely healed physically, spiritually, emotionally, and mentally. When we proclaim our thankfulness, we too are healed, energized and transformed. We will never be the same and that is worth the price of a grateful heart.

I will close with this. Michelle sent me a quote the other day. It said “what if we woke up tomorrow with only the things we were to give thanks for today?” If this were true what would you possess tomorrow? Could you live with what is left? May we be a grateful people who live out of a heart of gratitude and thanksgiving!

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Copyright © 2014 All Rights Reserved Robert W. Odom

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