Monthly Archives: April 2015

Ephesians – Upside Down Authority Turned Right Side Up

Peninsula Community Church

Ephesians – Upside Down Authority Turned Right Side Up

April 26, 2015

Ephesians 6:1-9 Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. “Honor your father and mother” (this is the first commandment with a promise), “that it may go well with you and that you may live long in the land.” Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord. Bondservants, obey your earthly masters with fear and trembling, with a sincere heart, as you would Christ, not by the way of eye-service, as people-pleasers, but as bondservants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart, rendering service with a good will as to the Lord and not to man, knowing that whatever good anyone does, this he will receive back from the Lord, whether he is a bondservant or is free. Masters, do the same to them, and stop your threatening, knowing that he who is both their Master and yours is in heaven, and that there is no partiality with him.

As we look at this passage, we see that Paul echoes several truths. First, children are to obey and honor their parents. This is a direct reference to the fifth commandment in the Old Testament. In this command God instructed children to honor their parents. It is also noteworthy that obedience to this command brings with it a blessing. The reward of obedience is that it will go well with them and they will live long in the land. In other words, they will have a good life. Paul on the other hand commands fathers not to exasperate their children but to bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord. In other words, parents are to disciple their children and not just punish them.

Paul also refers to the slave and master relationship. In our modern culture, this can easily be used of the employee and employer relationship. Paul begins this portion of scripture with a challenge that employees are to obey those over them with reverence for their position and with a sincere heart. These actions were to be carried out as if they were serving Christ directly and was motivated by the desire to please Christ. Just as the command for children to obey their parents came with a reward, so does serving those over you willfully and sincerely. What is the reward? They were to receive back from the Lord what they had given to others. In essence, they were to reap what they had sown. Paul then commands the masters, or in our case employers, to do the same to their employees. They were to stop using threats as a means to motivate those working for them because the reality is that they serve and must answer to the same God.

We see Paul’s heart here, but as we look over the landscape of our current culture, we find that the concept of respect and submission to authority has deteriorated, drastically. This is in part because we are living in an independent, self-focused society where everyone believes they have a right to lead and govern themselves. The result of such a lifestyle is that submission has been exchanged for selfishness, false pride, and arrogance. Submission to authority has been exchanged for personal autonomy which leads a person to believe they are morally independent and self-directing. The work ethic of our forefathers has been traded for entitlements and give always. The result is that people now feel they can do anything they want to, they do not have to answer to anyone including God, and they are entitled to what others have without working for it in the same way.

This is not a new issue as we find that the nation of Israel had also rejected the idea of respecting the authority that had been placed over them. In this case, it was God Himself. On two occasions we find the saddest of all commentaries in the Old Testament. Listen to these words. In those days there was no king in Israel. Everyone did what was right in his own eyes, (Judges 17:6). This phrase is repeated at the end of the book as well. (Judges 21:25). Rather than submit to God, they chose to follow their own desires, plans, and opinions. Sadly, this same storyline could be written of this generation. Not only do we have a nation where disrespect and a rejection of authority is the norm, we have also rejected God.

To make matters worse, in the world of psychology, we have been taught that to discipline our children may result in wounding their fragile psyche and may do unrepairable damage to their little spirits. Dr. Spock who wrote the book “Common sense: Book of Baby and Child Care” changed the face of parenting forever. What he set in motion diminished the ability of modern parents to properly discipline their children. The following quote referenced Dr. Spock’s work. Parents began to feed self-indulgence instead of instilling self-control – homes were becoming child-centered. As parents elevated children’s “freedom of expression” and natural cravings, children became more outspoken, defiant and demanding of gratification. In fact, they came to view gratification as a right. Authority and respect in the home was diminished. For this reason, it is no longer culturally accepted to discipline or spank our children. How sad that is.

This environment of diminished respect and submission has been carried over into the workplace and for that matter into every part of life. Because self-gratification has become a right, those who have been brought up in this environment are now going to work and are struggling to hold down jobs because they have issues in taking orders and submitting to those leading them. Their feelings are hurt when they don’t get the promotion they want or they have to do things on the job they don’t like or enjoy. Their self-esteem is stunted when they are disciplined or required to work a certain number of days or keep certain hours in a day.

But God’s intent has been and still is vastly different from the world’s view on this matter. The passionate follower of Christ has been called to a higher walk. As I have noted before, I do not believe it is accidental that Paul began the discussion of submission in Ephesians 5:21 with the phrase that we should “submit to one another out of reverence to the Lord.” It is not a coincidence that Paul then moves to the husband and wife relationship which is followed by the relationship of children to parents and parents to children. And he closes with the idea of the employer/employee relationship. Though it is not expressly noted, the idea presented is that when parents are in right relationship to one another and to the Lord, they will more likely have children who are in right relationship with the parents and with God. A child who witnesses a stable environment of love, respect, and discipleship is more likely to be engaged on the job and will learn respect for those who they work for and work with. God’s ultimate desire is to see His followers respecting and honoring one another.

So what are the lessons we learn here? First, we learn that submission and giving honor is a choice. Paul says it is the right thing to do. In the story of Adam and Eve, we find they chose to reject the authority of God who created them. They chose instead to submit to the serpent’s authority which was based in false hope, lies, and a counterfeit vision of the future. Paul calls children to obey and to submit to their parents. Paul calls servants and employees to submit to their bosses. The fact is, we must choose to honor and to obey our parents. We must choose to submit to the leadership that is over us in Christ, because we are called to do so and there is a spiritual blessing and a reward in doing so.

As is the pattern of Paul, he gives us both sides of the equation so that a full understanding  might come to the passionate follower of Christ. He addresses the antithesis or the flip side of the coin by noting that parents, namely the father, must not provoke their children to anger. Too often parents are more concerned about punishing the child rather than growing them in Christ. When the child is punished, too often it is because we are angry, perturbed, or our selfish expectations have not been met. Instead of correcting a problem, we are simply exasperating our children. We also exasperate our children by living a duplicitous life. As passionate followers of Christ, may we choose to submit and honor those with whom we are connected.

The second lesson is that as parents and leaders, we must understand that to get respect we must give respect and live in submission to others. In other words, we must model these principles. As moms and dads, do our children see us honoring our spouses? Do they see us honor our parents? Do we honor God in the way we live? Do we honor others or do we take them for granted. As employers, do we honor God with our business? Do we treat our employees with grace or are we demeaning and demanding on the job. As employees, do we take advantage of our bosses? Do we gossip behind their backs and belittle them? How we treat them is our choice. What we model though is what we will get in return.

The third lesson is that all of us submit to someone’s authority. Notice the words of Paul. The same God served by the employer is the same God who the employee serves. This brings me to the point that I made earlier. Too often, we want people to honor us and respect us when we ourselves are not respecting God’s word or submitting to God our Father. We want others to respect us and submit to our leadership but we ourselves are not willing to submit to others. We are all under someone’s authority whether we like it or not. The person you are called to submit to may be flawed but we are still called to submit and honor the position. The fact is, we are all flawed. We all make mistakes but that does not negate the call to respect and submit to those over us and to respect and honor those we work with. That is God’s calling to us.

As we close, is there an area of your life where you are struggling with submission and respect? Do you honor and submit to one another? Do you respect your spouse? What about your parents? What about your children? Do you respect your boss? Do you respect your employees? God’s will in all of this is that we would honor God by honoring others. So be it! To God be the glory!

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Copyright © 2015 All Rights Reserved Robert W. Odom

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Ephesians – What Kind Of Lover Are You?

Peninsula Community Church

What Kind of Lover are You?

April 12, 2015

Ephesians 5:25-33 Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church, because we are members of his body. “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church. However, let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband.

I have entitled this message “What Kind of Lover are You?” The purpose of the title was chosen in part to grab people’s attention but to also emphasize the key word in this passage which is love. Language has always been an interesting tool of communication. What and how we communicate often varies depending on what region or area we live in or where we were raised. Think about it. Depending on where you were raised you will order a soda, a pop, or a coke at a restaurant. You will eat a hero, a hoagie, a grinder, or a sub.

The problem with various languages and dialects is that if we do not understand the language we will miscommunicate with others. I can illustrate this in a very personal way. In 1995, I had the privilege to lead a mission team to Morelia, Mexico. While there, I was trying so hard to learn the language and communicate the best I could in Spanish. At the end of dinner, one evening, our host asked if I were still hungry. In my feeble attempt to reply in Spanish, instead of using the word for hungry which is HAMBRE, I used the word for man which is HOMBRE. So, I ended up saying “This was so good that I am no longer a man.” Needless to say, the host and those around the table got a good chuckle at my expense.

As we have noted before, the Greek language was a wonderful language as specific words were used to define specific actions or ideas. By properly defining these words we can understand what the Bible is communicating in a more precise manner. The key word in this passage is love, but if we interpret the word love only through the template of the English language, we can misunderstand what love in this context means. The reason is that the word love is used for almost anything and everything. In regard to the word love in the Greek language, there are three primary words for love. There was the word PHILEO which is brotherly love. There was the word EROS which is a sensual or sexual love. And then there is AGAPE which is the love initiated by God and it is a love that is self-sacrificing. Agape is the word that is used here in this passage. Paul was intentional about using the word Agape and not PHILEO or Eros. He wanted us to love with a love that only God could create and reveal.

In thinking of agape love, the first idea to be considered is that agape love is a sacrificial love. Paul states “Christ loved the church and gave Himself up for her.” He left the splendor of heaven to come as a humble servant to give Himself as the sacrifice for our sin. To live in agape love, we must place not only our wife’s needs before our needs but other’s needs as well. This does not mean that we are not concerned about our needs, it means that we are not self-absorbed with our needs. Paul describes this sacrificial love in Philippians. Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross (Philippians 2:3-8). Jesus’ love for the church is graphically represented through His death on the cross. Our love for our spouse will be best demonstrated through the sacrificial giving of ourselves to them. To be sacrificial means we consider our spouses ideas and we listen to her concerns and then do our best to fulfill those needs where possible. So, are you a sacrificial lover?

Second, agape love is a caring love. Paul proclaims that as the man cherishes and nourishes his own body, he must nurture and cherish his wife. To nourish something is to feed it. This is accomplished by feeding our spouse on every level: physically, emotionally, and spiritually. It means that we are aware and considerate of her feelings. The second idea presented by Paul is that the man is to cherish his wife. The word cherish carries the idea of warmth or kindness. It is used of a mother who holds her baby close to her body. It is the idea of being gentle and caring. When our spouse is wounded or hurt emotionally, spiritually, or physically; we must nourish and cherish them back to health. This is not the time to say to her suck it up and get over it. It is also not a time to ignore her or minimize what she is experiencing.

I have in my hands a violin. Suppose for a moment that this is a Stradivarius violin. I read recently that an original Stradivarius violin just sold for more than 10 million dollars. Let me ask you, how would you treat this violin especially if it were a valuable Stradivarius. Would you toss it around? Would you hand it off to others and let them play with it? Or, would you cherish it and care for it because you realize you have something of value in your hands. Well let me say this; our spouses and loved ones are more valuable than any violin made by human hands. They are a creation of God and that makes them highly valuable. We must therefore treat them as the valuable gift they are. So, are you a caring lover?

Thirdly, agape love is a committed love. This commitment is implied in the fact that Paul states a husband is to leave his mother and his father to cleave to his wife. The two are to become one flesh. They are to be committed to each other. We must understand that commitment is much more than sexual purity even though that is critical. To understand commitment, we must understand that it must be a realistic commitment. Two people on their wedding day may seem to be so perfect but the fact is they will have problems and they will encounter issues after they are married. A true commitment remains steady regardless of what is happening in the marriage. This commitment is also a growing commitment. Our commitment does not run on auto pilot. It must be nurtured. We must also understand that this commitment is a total commitment. We don’t hold anything back. We must include our spouses in every major decision we make. We are a team. So, are you a committed lover?

Fourth, agape love must be demonstrated. Agape love can only be known by the actions prompted by it. We are to love others as we love ourselves. For men, Paul is not suggesting that we learn to love ourselves as much as he is pointing out that men generally already love themselves pretty well. You see it is not the content of our love that matters as much as it is the intensity of our love. Think about this for a moment. What if we approached loving our wives with the same intensity we approach our golf game, our love for hunting, sports, other leisure activities, or our jobs? Would it make a difference? You bet it would. We need to understand that our words and our promises can be worthless. It is our actions that make a difference. Commit to love and keep that love burning bright. So, are you a committed lover?

Fourth, agape love is an engaged love. To be engaged means we seek to protect our spouse and shield them from things that would harm them or cause them to walk in sin. We are not to be passive observers in this process but we are be connected and engaged. The story of Adam and Eve is a reminder of this need. Do you remember who received the word from God? It was Adam. Adam communicated God’s purpose and plan to Eve but, when it mattered most, he left Eve in the lurch and she succumbed to the temptation brought by the serpent. What do you think would have happened if Adam had been the man he should have been and stepped in when the serpent was tempting Eve? This world would certainly be a better place. One way to do this is to establish an atmosphere that leads our spouse toward sanctification and holiness. This is not something that is forced but it is modeled and lived out. We must be engaged in our relationship with our spouses. Our wives especially need to know we are engaged. So, are you an engaged lover?

As we bring this to a close let me ask you. What kind of lover are you? Are you a sacrificial lover? Are you a caring lover? Are you a committed lover? Are you an intense lover? Are you a lover who is engaged? By doing these things you will not be perfect but you will enhance your relationship and strengthen your marriage. Christ was all of these things and more to us. He charted the course for us and He made the way possible for us to become the kind of lover that builds and not destroys. He modeled what it means to be sacrificial and not self-centered.

Before we pray, let me tell you that each of you are a creation of God. You have been bought with a price. You are valuable. No matter where you fall in the love spectrum, you can begin again and start over. That is the beauty of the risen Lord which we celebrated last week.

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Copyright © 2015 All Rights Reserved Robert W. Odom

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The Risen Christ – His Peace, Power, and Purpose

Peninsula Community Church

The Risen Christ – His Peace, Power, and Purpose

April 5, 2015

John 20:19-23 On the evening of that day, the first day of the week, the doors being locked where the disciples were for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.” When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord. Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you.” And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you withhold forgiveness from any, it is withheld.”

I am sure that most of you have know the Easter story but let me give you a bit of an overview. You will remember that just a week before the resurrection Jesus had entered the city of Jerusalem with people proclaiming His kingship (John 12:13). You will also remember that what .? ..had begun as a joyful, celebrated moment in time quickly turned to a riotous, chaotic and deadly event (John 19). From that triumphal entry on Sunday until Thursday of that week, Jesus met with his disciples and gave them final instructions. He encouraged them to not be troubled by what was about to happen. He wanted them to know that He would live again (John 13-17).

By Thursday of that week, the Jewish leaders had been able to trump up charges and were able to rouse the crowd to cry for Christ’s crucifixion. For the Jewish leaders, they were jealous of the notoriety that Jesus was receiving and they were afraid that He was going to unseat them from their positions of power. Their response was to trump up charges against Jesus and to excite the crowd to press the Roman officials to have Jesus arrested. It is interesting to note that the Roman officials had a better sense of what was going on than the religious leaders of the day. Pilate, the chief magistrate of Jerusalem for the Roman empire, had to confess that he found no fault in Jesus (John 19:11). And yet he succumbed to the pressure of the crowd to arrest Jesus and then have him ultimately crucified.

While the crowds turned against Christ, the disciples promised their loyalty and that they would be with Him until the end. The loudest of all was Peter who defiantly stated that there was no way that he would ever deny Christ (John 13:36-38) and yet within hours of that defiant statement he had denied Christ not once but three times (John 18). He had turned his back on Christ. After his death, Jesus was buried but the disciples were not found by Jesus’ side or at His tomb, they were found hiding behind locked doors. They were trying to put space between them and the people who had killed the one they loved and they had promised to follow.

In the story before us today, we see Jesus showing up where the disciples least expected it. He showed up right where they were. In this story, we find three things that Jesus did for this band of rejected and fearful followers. The risen Lord showed up to give them peace. He showed up to give them power. And He showed up to give them a purpose and a reason to live.

Lets look at the first of these. Jesus came to give them peace.  As noted before rather than being out front in support of Jesus, the disciples were behind a locked door because they were afraid. Fear for them was a very real emotion. As we know, fear can be expressed in many different ways. Fear grabs us and in so doing it strangles our hopes and dreams and it can rob us of peace.

What did they fear? For one they feared retaliation by the Jewish leaders which would result in their death. They were afraid that they would be identified as one of the followers of Jesus. Now before you judge the disciples too harshly remember that we can all fall into this trap. For us personally, we can be afraid that people will know us for who we are. We hide our true self from others and we hope no one finds out who we really are. For some of us, we live in turmoil because we are afraid that people will discover the real us because we know people will not like who we are. So we hide behind a wall and we put on masks to hide our real identity.

Secondly, they were afraid of what the future held for them. Without Jesus, could they continue in the quest they had been called to? Could they continue to hold onto the truth that He preached? How could they be effective in their mission at this point? Their leader was dead and so was their vision for the future. Before we judge the disciples too harshly, may I remind you that we too can be afraid of what the future holds. This is especially true when we believe our security has been snatched from us. Because of fear, we can make wrong choices about the future. Because of fear, we will either play it safe and lock ourselves away or we will take unwise risks that ultimately sidetrack us from accomplishing what we are suppose to do.

But notice what Jesus did. While they were sequestered behind locked doors, Jesus showed up and stood among them. He proclaimed these words not once but twice. “Peace be with you.” Think about this for a moment, Jesus was crucified, laid in a borrowed tomb, and then rose on the third day. Instead of going to the Jewish leaders or the Roman governors, he went to His disciples. Their spiritual and emotional health was more important to Him than His proving who He was in that moment. Jesus was not about exacting revenge or about proving a point, He was about extending love and grace and He was about giving life to those whose life had been sucked from them by the week’s events.

We should note that Jesus suddenly appeared. He just showed up. He suddenly showed up to make a difference in them. In that action, Jesus communicated so much, not in words as much as by His actions. He was coming to them at the point of their fear. He was communicating that I am not going to wait for you to get your act together. He was communicating that He was not going to wait for them to have enough faith to overcome their fear. He came to help them and to restore their faith and to assist them in overcoming their fear.

And here is the truth in this. The risen, living Jesus is still doing this, today. He comes when we cry out to him in our fear. He helps us. For me I have called to him a thousand of times: “Jesus please help me.” And he has come near with the promise: “Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand” (Isaiah 41:10). He will do this for you too, if you receive him into your life for who He really is.

Secondly, Jesus came to give them power. In this passage, Jesus makes a profound statement. Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you withhold forgiveness from any, it is withheld. By way of receiving the Holy Spirit, we have the power to release others from the wrongs they have perpetrated against us. Here is what Jesus is communicating to us, if you have someone in your life that has wronged you and you continue to hold that over them, the effect on you will be one that is negative and it’s effects are strong.

You see, we are not responsible for how others respond to forgiveness but we must be in a place where we release others who have wronged us. I believe that in essence Jesus was calling on them to release those who had perpetrated the acts of the last few days. The disciples needed to do this for themselves. Forgiveness is the most powerful action that we can take. By not forgiving others, we become obsessed with revenge and getting even. It impairs our ability to look forward to what is ahead because we are locked into the past with all of its hurts and the pain that comes from other’s sin and actions against us. Jesus was saying the locked door of the room was nothing to be compared to the locked door of their heart. The key to unlock the door was forgiveness. This was the power that Jesus want them to have. It was the power of a freed heart that could honestly seek love and not anger.

Thirdly, Jesus came to give them purpose. Jesus’ word to them was that He was sending them out with a purpose. At this stage, the point is that He did not give them a specific plan or destination, but that would come later. Why was this important? Too often when people fail us or their actions are less than admirable we tend to write them off. Jesus did not do that. He came to them. He loved them in spite of their actions or their deeds. He let them know they were still valuable to Him and to the Kingdom of God. You see one of the lies that has been communicated to us way too often is that we have committed too great a sin. We have acted so badly that we will never be forgiven or that we can be used of God. Or, we may feel we have rejected Christ and turned our back on Him too often. Let me clear that up  for you. Are you ready? Listen to me. There is nothing that you can do that will turn Jesus off or cause Him to reject you. There is no sin too great that He cannot forgive. There is no act too great that He will not restore you. He has a plan for you. He has a purpose for you. 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).

So what does this mean to us this morning? It means that Jesus will come to us to set us free from our personal fears. Today, He is whispering those words if we will only listening. Today, He is holding out His hands to you as the crucified, risen Lord. Those hands want to hold you and let you know it will be ok. Secondly, He wants to empower you through the power of forgiveness that releases you from those that deserve our outrage and our revenges

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Copyright © 2014 All Rights Reserved Robert W. Odom

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