Monthly Archives: October 2016

By Faith: God Provides

Peninsula Community Church 

By Faith: God Provides

October 30, 2016

Hebrews 11:17-20 By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac, and he who had received the promises was in the act of offering up his only son, of whom it was said, “Through Isaac shall your offspring be named.” He considered that God was able even to raise him from the dead, from which, figuratively speaking, he did receive him back. By faith Isaac invoked future blessings on Jacob and Esau. By faith Jacob, when dying, blessed each of the sons of Joseph, bowing in worship over the head of his staff. By faith Joseph, at the end of his life, made mention of the exodus of the Israelites and gave directions concerning his bones.

As we continue our journey through the Hall of Fame of Faith we will turn our attention back to Abraham and a story that seems to be filled with major contradictions. We will look at these in a moment. While it is true there appears to be a series of contradictions, we also see that this is a story of faith and trust like no other.

In our earlier discussions, you may remember that Abraham had been called out of his homeland to go to a new place that God would reveal to him only as he was obedient to God. In other words God would let him know when he arrived at the destination (Genesis 12). In the story, we find that Abraham obeyed by faith and he found the place God wanted him to abide. In the process, God promised Abraham that he would be the father of many nations. He would be progenitor of what was to come. As we continue the story, we find that he and Sarah tried to take things into their own hands and he had a son with Hagar. This never worked out the way he thought and he had to move Hagar and Ishmael to the desert.

Here is what I love about the story of Abraham. He was a man of faith but he was not a perfect man. He had his foibles and his failures. Throughout his life he passed many of life’s tests and yet he failed so many others. We might be critical of Abraham but before we become too critical of him if we are honest we do the same thing. We pass some of the tests of life with flying colors while we fail at some of the others. In fact, at times I can be amazed at what tests I pass and which ones I fail. In the story before us today, we see a major test that Abraham was given and how he passed it with flying colors.

As I noted before, this story is filled with several contradictions. In a recent message by Pastor Tony Evans, he noted five contradictions in this story. First, he noted that theologically God had made a promise to Abraham but now Abraham was being asked to kill the promise that was given to him. For Abraham this was a major contradiction. Secondly, from a Biblical standpoint God had condemned murder in Genesis 9:5-6. Now God is asking Abraham to do the very thing that is condemned by God. On one hand God is calling for Abraham’s obedience and yet on the other hand he is being asked to break God’s command. Emotionally, Abraham faced a huge contradiction. He loved his son, his only son, but he wanted to please God and honor God with his whole life. Abraham was having to make a choice about giving up what he loved and his obedience to God. Can you imagine the turmoil that evidenced in Abraham’s heart.

Relationally, we see the contradiction of his love for Sarah and the struggle he would have in explaining all of this to her. Perhaps that is why he arose early in the morning. By leaving early he would not have to confront her with his mission. And then finally, we see a spiritual contradiction. Do you see it? He is being asked to sacrifice his son and yet at the same time he was being called to worship God. This story begs the question of how can we be obedient to God, and yet worship Him with a broken heart. These were the issues Abraham was being confronted with and yet he passed the test.

Think about this for a moment, God the creator of the heavens and the earth, the one who gave Abraham the promise of a son now has him positioned to take his son’s life. What turmoil and what pain he must of felt. All at once he was experiencing love, pain, confusion and so much more but instead of rejecting God we see a man who had faith that God would provide. How do I know that? Let’s look at three key passages that express the heart of Abraham.

First of all, Abraham tells his servants to stay below and that he and Isaac would go up the mountain to make a sacrifice to God. Once the sacrifice was complete they would return. Notice he did not say I will be back but instead he made the proclamation that “we will be back.” Here are his exact words. Then Abraham said to his young men, “Stay here with the donkey; I and the boy will go over there and worship and come again to you” (Genesis 22:5). There was a confident faith expressed here. He knew that God would fulfill His promise. He trusted God and he knew that God would provide even against all odds.

It is noteworthy that Abraham prepared for the sacrifice. He prepared the wood. He brought the rope. He brought everything he needed for the sacrifice and yet there was an assurance in his heart that God would provide an appropriate sacrifice. That is why he could proclaim that we are going up the mountain. I am going to be obedient to God and we will come down the mountain together.

There is a second reason that I believe that he had a great faith in God’s ability to fulfill His word and keep His promise. Listen to what the writer of Hebrews had to say. He considered that God was able even to raise him from the dead, from which, figuratively speaking, he did receive him back (Hebrews 11:19). By faith, Abraham knew that even if the worst case scenario was to happen and he followed through with the offering of his son upon the altar, he knew that God had the power to raise him up again. He had a confidence in almighty God that He would keep His word and His promise to make him a father of many nations.

This vaguely sounds like the echo of Job’s heart when he faced the loss of everything that mattered in his life. Do you recall what Job proclaimed in Job 13:15? Here are Job’s words. Though he slay me, I will hope in him; yet I will argue my ways to his face. Listen to the faith of Job. Though God were to take everything from him, even his life, he vowed to serve God and to keep Him first in his life. He was saying that no matter what happens he would trust God and would hope in His promise.

As I think about this I am not so sure that I would have had such confidence in God. I think I would have been the one who would have been trying to find another way to help God out. After all, this could not be God’s will. Certainly, God must not know what He is talking about. I wonder if we are honest with ourselves, how many times do we react to the commands and promises of God that way. Through His written word and those strong impressions of the heart we know the voice of God, but we try to help God out because He certainly cannot know or mean what He is saying. I am so grateful that God does not put us to that kind of test everyday. I am so glad that God is patient with us when we do not believe Him or have faith in Him.

Abraham had an incredible faith. He obeyed. In his obedience he passed this major exam. The exam was a measure of his heart and the capacity of his heart to trust God to provide an appropriate sacrifice. One of things that helped Abraham pass the test is that he was more in love with God than he was the promise of God. That is the real test. The big question for us today is will we be more in love with God or more in love with what God does for us? It is so easy for us to slide into this kind of mentality. After all God gives and does so much for us that we could easily take Him for granted. We can easily become more in love with what He does than who He is.

And then thirdly, we have the words of Jesus in John 8:56. This is an amazing statement by Jesus but it helps us understand Abraham’s heart and mindset. Jesus said this. Your father Abraham rejoiced that he would see my day. He saw it and was glad.” Do you get what this passage is saying? Abraham with confidence looked across the generations and through the years to see the ultimate fulfillment of God’s plan. God’s plan all along was to provide a Savior that would redeem the world and would redeem mankind. Abraham knew in his heart that he had a role to play in that process.

Through the eyes of faith Abraham looked over the horizon of history yet to be written to see the coming Messiah. He focused on the coming Christ. Here is the beauty of this. In essence, it was this forward thinking of faith that kept Abraham focused on Christ and keep him in an obedient stance before God. In many ways the story of Abraham and Isaac resembled the story of Christ. Jesus was the only son of God who was sacrificed upon the cross for our sins. It was Jesus who became the substitute for our sin. It is also amazing that this story took place on Mount Moriah which was only a few yards from Golgotha where Christ died.

Think about it if you will. Later in the book of Hebrews, the writer admonishes us with these words in 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. Notice that the challenge here is for us to stay focused on Christ. The difference for us is that we have the historical record upon which we can base our faith but Abraham based his faith on the unknown and yet to be.

So let me ask you today? How is your faith? When difficulty comes into your life, what do you focus on? Where do you put your faith and confidence? Isaiah had a revelation of this truth in Isaiah 26:3 You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you. Trust in the Lord forever, for the Lord God is an everlasting rock. Do you hear it? He gives peace to those who focus on God. Abraham had that peace. He had that confidence. His focus was on the future hope of the coming Messiah.

So what does all of this mean for us today? It means that we too can have a confidence in the risen Savior, Jesus Christ. We can focus on Him knowing that He will provide all we need to survive the tests of our lives. We can have a confidence that even if God takes the promise from us that He will cause it to rise again in greater and more powerful ways. So I do not know what you are facing. I do not know what you need faith for today. But I know this God will provide a means to get through the difficulty and He will provide a means where we will survive the test. He is Jehovah Jireh, the God that provides. If we trust Him, He will provide a sacrifice. He will provide the answers we need. We focus, He answers!

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Copyright © 2016 All Rights Reserved Robert W. Odom

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By Faith: Having an Eternal Perspective

Peninsula Community Church

By Faith: Having an Eternal Perspective

October 23, 2016

Hebrews 11:13-16 These all died in faith, not having received the things promised, but having seen them and greeted them from afar, and having acknowledged that they were strangers and exiles on the earth. For people who speak thus make it clear that they are seeking a homeland. If they had been thinking of that land from which they had gone out, they would have had opportunity to return. But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared for them a city.

As we come to this part of our tour of the Hall of Fame of Faith, the writer of Hebrews takes a step back and adds some clarification to the stories of those inducted there. This portion of the story seems to be antithetical to what we have been teaching so far but in reality it is not. In a precursory reading of the passage we might be confused. It would seem that the writer of Hebrews is saying that on one hand we have Abel, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, and Sarah all being praised for their faith and the actions they took to see God fulfill His promises, but on the other hand, we find there were promises that were not fulfilled in the life time of the inductees. They died without seeing the fullness of what God promised. The amazing aspect of this story is that did not discourage them, it in fact inspired them to be more faithful and more committed to God’s plan and purpose. How could that be?

To understand this, we must grasp the fact that while those inducted into the Hall of Fame of Faith were given great promises and that many of those promises were not fulfilled they had a greater vision of what could be. It was a vision that at its core was based in an eternal perspective. Their faith focused on an unmovable, unshakable, and totally faithful God. By their faith, they were able to trust God to do whatever He deemed best in their circumstance. They trusted God no matter what. They trusted God even if He did not do things the way they thought He should or could. Their faith was based in the foundational principle that God was Sovereign and He was in control.

Their eternal perspective kept them balanced and reminded them that this world is not their ultimate destination or home. An eternal perspective reminds us that the present and momentary trials we face are not to be compared to what is to come. It reminds us that when we do not see the total fulfillment of the promises of God, it does not mean that He has failed us. In fact, it is the opposite. When we weigh the issues of the moment against the backdrop of eternity suddenly our issues and problems do not seem to be such a problem at all.

Paul encapsulates this thought in 2 Corinthians 4:16-18. So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal. Paul reminds us that when the issues of life get us down we can be assured that what we face now is only temporary and will certainly pass. Our problems are temporary but the eternal glory of God is forever and that is what counts most. If you remember, Hebrews 11 begins with a definition of faith. Remember the writer stated that Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. Faith pushes through the unseen and the unknown. It pushes through the unanswered prayers we face. Faith looks to the eternal which is unseen and unrealized on this side of life and in so doing our faith is built and our hope grows.

Throughout Scripture our journey here on earth has been classified as a pilgrimage and that we live as strangers here on earth. The fact is this is not our ultimate home. We have a heavenly destination promised to us. In the book of Revelation, we have a promise of a new city where we will live for eternity. John noted Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband (Revelations 21:1-2). This world is not our home, it is just a stopping off place where we get to experience life from a different perspective. We have a home that is being created by God the Father so that God the son can rule and reign forever.

As we look at this passage, we find many of those in the Old Testament had experienced some of the blessing that God had promised but the fullness of the blessing was yet to come. I am reminded that the Holy Spirit has become our down payment for what is to come. How do I know this? Listen to Ephesians 1:11-14. In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will, so that we who were the first to hope in Christ might be to the praise of his glory. In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory.

Let me explain this in this way. When we experience the presence of God in a powerful way that is simply a downpayment for what is to come. There is coming a day when we will live in the glory of His presence every day. When we experience the healing hand of God, it is just a down payment for the day when there will be no more sickness. When God comes and dries our tears, it is just a reminder that one day we will no longer shed any tears. When we are comforted during times of deep sadness, we are reminded that in heaven there is no more sorrow and no more pain. Death will be destroyed forever. We could go on and on but I think you get the point. Whatever happens to us now through the work of the Holy Spirit is just a downpayment for what is to come and what has been promised by God even if we do not see everything clearly now.

In keeping with the idea of the eternal perspective, the writer of Hebrews also makes another statement that needs to be considered. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared for them a city. Do you get that? God is not ashamed to call them their God. How powerful a statement that is! There is no shame in following God. There is no shame in being obedient to God’s ways and His word. Even when we do not see the fulfillment of everything that God has promised, we do not have to be ashamed. There is no shame in recognizing that this is not our home, our home is with Christ in the new city being built for us.

The problem however is that shame causes us to reject God and causes us to hide from His presence. Too often we walk in shame because we believe that we are the reason that God has not fulfilled His promise to us. We walk in guilt and shame which binds us and keeps us from the truth. We struggle to have more faith and to walk a tighter rope but that only causes more shame and more guilt and that was never God’s intent.

John Piper reminds us that shame has plagued us since Adam and Eve bit into the fruit and realized they were naked. In Genesis 3:7-9 we find that Adam and Eve’s first instinct was to hide themselves from God and to cover their nakedness. Once they sinned, shame came rushing in and they had to cover themselves. Now instead of walking in the innocence in which they were created they now stand guilty before God. They are also vulnerable to each other and they are subject to the deception of Satan’s ways. Instead of innocence, they were now sinful, weak, damaged people living in a dangerous world. They now find themselves under God’s righteous judgment. They are exposed to the sinful judgment of God, the rejection of others, and they are wide-open to the condemning accusations of the evil one.

Piper continues by saying, because sin is alive in our bodies (Romans 7:23) and because we are beset with weakness (Hebrews 5:2), the kind of shame we often experience is a potent combination of failure and pride. We fail morally, we fail due to our limitations, and we fail because the creation is subject to futility and just does not work right (Romans 8:20). We also fail to live up to other people’s expectations. Because we are full of sinful pride, we are ashamed of our failures and weaknesses, and will go to almost any length to hide them from others. This means pride-fueled shame can wield great power over us. It controls significant parts of our lives and consumes precious energy and time in avoiding exposure.

What the writer of Hebrews is saying here is that although we may walk in shame God does not see us that way. He is not ashamed of us. Notice that even in the story of Adam and Eve God still came to them to walk with them. He had not rejected them. Their guilt and shame had caused them to close off from God. You see, when we have accepted Christ as our Savior, He sees us as being whole and complete in Him. How do we get rid of shame? Rather than running and hiding we draw near to Christ. We hide in the rock of salvation where we are covered by the power of grace and His love. We hide in the rock of salvation where we are accepted not because of what we have done but because of the acceptance of Christ. We expose our shame and bring it into the light. It begins with repentance and godly sorrow and then we are forgiven.

Remember the woman at the well (John 4:7-24). She was living in sin and she had five husbands and the person she was living with was not her husband but Christ did not cast shame upon her. Instead, He offered forgiveness and acceptance. He shared the message of hope and He gave her the living water that would satisfy her forever.

Remember David and his confrontation with Nathan (2 Samuel 12). Nathan uncovered David’s sin and obstinance in not seeking God’s forgiveness. David had been walking in the shame of his sin but God had a better plan. He drew David to a place of healing. In Psalms 51:11 David prayed that God would not take His Holy Spirit from him. What is David saying? He is saying I don’t want to be separated from God’s presence. That is what shame does. It separates us from God and causes our vision for a future hope to be darkened. It brings us into despair and hopelessness but that is not God’s will or purpose for us.

But here is the blessing. When we draw near to God, we find that He forgives (James 4:8). He forgave David. He forgave the woman at the well (John 4:7-24). He forgave the woman who was caught in adultery (John 8:2-11). He forgave all of those who had crucified him (Luke 23:34). The key is to receive His healing and allow Him to restore us. Through Christ, He does not look at us with shame but with hope, love, and grace. How powerful is that?

Today, you may be walking in shame. Your vision of a better day and a future hope may be blinded by a heart filled with shame. Because of what you are experiencing you may not have much of an eternal perspective but know this, God does not look upon you with shame. He accepts you and He loves you. The key is to confess your sin, confess your shame and repent and accept the love of God today. By repenting, we will have a change of heart and attitude which leads to a change of action. Instead of walking in shame, we can now walk in the freedom that is ours in Christ. A part of the shame we face is the acknowledgement that we need change. God can do that today if we will allow Him to.

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By Faith: Is Anything Too Hard for God?

Peninsula Community Church

By Faith: Is Anything Too Hard for God?

October 16, 2016

Hebrews 11:11-12By faith Sarah herself received power to conceive, even when she was past the age, since she considered him faithful who had promised. Therefore from one man, and him as good as dead, were born descendants as many as the stars of heaven and as many as the innumerable grains of sand by the seashore.

Today, we continue our walk through the Hall of Fame of Faith. It is an amazing walk as we have  already discovered that each person inducted into the Hall of Fame of Faith had one thing in common. They had faith in an unmovable, unshakable, and faithful God. Though God was faithful, we must understand that those inducted were not perfect people as they had their foibles and their failures. They were tested beyond measure and they failed many times. But they were always able to adjust and refocus on what was right and good. They were able to refocus on God and His faithfulness.

The story of Abraham and Sarah is no different. The story of Sarah which have in front of us today proposes a question that must be answered in the heart of every believer. Is there really anything that is too hard for God? How many times are we confronted with issues that seem too big, too costly, too expansive for anything good to come from them? If we were honest, how many times do we face issues that we believe that not even God can resolve or fix? How many people are in our life seem to live or act in a way that diminishes any hope for change or redemption? We are all confronted with events, circumstances, and people which can cause us to question the power of God to do the impossible. We can begin to believe that there is no hope as we see the physical evidence of that which is impossible or too hard. But in our study today we will find that even under the greatest of odds, God is able to do the impossible.

In Genesis 18:9-15 we have the rest of the story of Sarah. The Lord had visited with Sarah and Abraham and the Lord said to him, “Where is Sarah your wife?” And he said, “She is in the tent.” The Lord said, “I will surely return to you about this time next year, and Sarah your wife shall have a son.” And Sarah was listening at the tent door behind him. Now Abraham and Sarah were old, advanced in years. The way of women had ceased to be with Sarah. So Sarah laughed to herself, saying, “After I am worn out, and my lord is old, shall I have pleasure?” The Lord said to Abraham, “Why did Sarah laugh and say, ‘Shall I indeed bear a child, now that I am old?’ Is anything too hard for the Lord? At the appointed time I will return to you, about this time next year, and Sarah shall have a son.” But Sarah denied it, saying, “I did not laugh,” for she was afraid. He said, “No, but you did laugh.”

When we consider the story of Sarah and Abraham we see that the odds were against them. It had been 15 years since God had promised them that Abraham would be the father of many nations. They were now in their 90’s and their bodies were beginning to show the signs of aging. I am sure that were becoming wrinkled by the force of the sun beating down on them. They grew tired more easily. They faced aches and pains that had not been there in their earlier years. We have a glimpse into their health in Hebrews 11 when the author states that “Abraham was as good as dead.”  This was the man that God had deposited the promise and it was through this man that God would fulfill His purpose. He was almost dead but God was not finished with him.

One of the things I have learned through my years of ministry and life is that sometimes the promise has to die so God can resurrect it the way He desires. If you have read the entire story of Abraham and Sarah you will remember that they had lost hope in the fulfillment of the promise. They took things into their own hands. They tried to help God out. Sarah had given Abraham her handmaiden, Hagar, to have a child. While in those days that was considered a loving gesture, it was never God’s will. It was never the plan that God had for them.

We find that Abraham had sexual relations with Hagar and out of that relationship Ishmael was born. While Ismael was Abraham’s son it was through Isaac that God was going to bless and fulfill His promise. The turmoil in the home became so great that Abraham had to send Ismael and Hagar to the desert to live. The choices made at that time started a ripple effect that would impact the world for centuries to come and in fact is effecting us even today. You may not know this but Muslims preach that they are descendants of Ishmael while Christians and Jews alike believe they are the descendants of Isaac.

What began as a play for power,  a heart of jealously, and a grab for authority has continued through the years. It reminds us that our choices in life have consequences. Our choices effect those around us. One decision by Abraham has effected almost every generation from that day until now. The conflict in the Middle East and the terroristic plots of our day have all been seeded by Abraham’s decision to try another way to fulfill God’s plan. His decision led to hatred between Ishmael and Isaac which reached across the centuries.

As we read this story, we find that although Abraham had been given Ishmael, he knew that Ismael was not the son of promise. God had given Abraham a dream but that dream seemed to be delayed and seemed to be just a pizza dream at best. But here is the truth we must hear today. Sometimes the dream has to die before God can bring it to pass. Abraham and Sarah tried to do it their way and now God gives them a chance to do it His way. He says I will do the impossible to show my grandeur and my love for you. One of the great missionaries to China, Hudson Taylor made the following observation. God’s work done God’s way will never lack God’s supply. And that is so true.

Secondly, we must be aware that God’s delay is not a sign that God has forgotten us. In living life, there are things we have prayed for and promises we believe God has given us. We can grow weary in waiting for those things to happen and we can begin to lose heart. But know, or at least be aware that God’s delay is not a sign that He has forgotten us. He is still there and He is still working. The problem for us is that we want immediate action and an immediate response to our need and desire. In Psalm 46:10 we are reminded that no matter what comes our way or what storm may blow, we must be still and know that God is still God. He never leaves us and He never fails us.

Thirdly, God wants us to be honest with our emotions and how we feel. As we read this story, we find Sarah does something pretty amazing. Sarah laughed and scoffed at the prospect of having a child. Her seemingly lack of faith was merited in the fact that the odds were against them. Both Abraham and Sarah were old. They were advanced in years and they were tired and weary. It is noteworthy that the Scripture says that “the way of a woman had ceased to be with Sarah.” There was no way for her to have children. She needed a miracle and that is just what they received. With that said there is a point that needs to be made here. Some may criticize Sarah for laughing at the prospect that she would give birth to a child. We might even be insulted that she would dare do that but her response was an honest response to an impossible dream.

The fact is, too often we attempt to hide our emotions. We try to distance ourselves from the pain in our life. We try to even hide our emotions and disappointments from God. Somehow we think that God will be upset if we are real with Him. But here is a secret that needs to be revealed. God already knows your emotional state. He knows your heart and He knows what you are feeling. For that reason it is ok to express your emotions. It is ok to be real with God. I believe that it is important to communicate our emotions because we get to hear the words and feel the release of the pain through our words.

Sometimes, we have to go through a negative season of doubt and fear so that we can grasp the value of trusting God and believe that He will do what He said He would do. I am amazed in this story that although Sarah doubted and laughed we do not see any condemnation or judgement being passed onto her. And yet how often do we live with guilt, worry, and fear because we have expressed an emotion that we spoke from our heart. I love what the angel of the Lord spoke. He simply said I know your heart and by the way I will see you in a year. I will see you at the birth of your child. He spoke with confidence and she was filled with promise, hope, and life. Even though Sarah tried to hide her emotions, the Lord looked right through her to see the reality of her heart. And today, He is looking through the facade of our life to see the emotions of our heart.

Fourth, we need to know that God keeps His word. The angel of the Lord spoke to Sarah and said to her. At the appointed time I will return to you, about this time next year, and Sarah shall have a son. He is saying, “you will have a son.” You may not accept that. You may think that it is an impossibility but trust me it will happen. God keeps His Word.

Here is an interesting note about this story. We know that although the promise seemed impossible; Abraham and Sarah did their part. They had sexual intercourse. They had a sexual  encounter at least once. By their faith, they moved beyond what they saw in the natural to believe God for the spiritual. They did their part and God did the rest. God touched her body and the seed of man joined the egg of woman and their son was born as promised. How amazing is that? God promised and He fulfilled His promise against the most amazing odds.

We began by asking the question, “Is there anything too hard for God?” We have looked at the issues with Sarah and have seen what God did for her. So the answer for us today is that there is nothing too hard for God. Nothing at all.

In the New Testament we find a similar story surrounding Elizabeth a relative of Mary. We find that she is pregnant even though she too was considered to be too old and she was barren which meant she could not have any children. This is the proclamation made in Luke 1:38. “for nothing will be impossible with God.” How much is impossible? Nothing at all is impossible with God. By the way John the Baptist was born to her just after this proclamation.

No one is ever too old. No one is ever too barren. We tend to measure God’s ability by what we see but God works the impossible and does what only He can do. In Matthew 17:20, Jesus reminds us that we don’t need big faith we just need faith. In fact, He compares the amount of faith that is needed to a grain of mustard seed. It is a small seed but that small seed has great potential. What Jesus is referring to here is that it is not the size of our faith that counts it is what we do with our faith that matters. Are we discouraged by the size of the need or the mountain in front of us? Whatever level of faith we have we can trust God. We can trust Him for answers to prayer. We can trust Him to do the impossible. That is God’s will. After all it is God we focus on on and not the mountain.

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By Faith: Obedience To the Calling

Peninsula Community Church

By Faith: Obedience To the Calling

October 9, 2016

Hebrews 11:8-10 By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to a place that he was to receive as an inheritance. And he went out, not knowing where he was going. By faith he went to live in the land of promise, as in a foreign land, living in tents with Isaac and Jacob, heirs with him of the same promise. For he was looking forward to the city that has foundations, whose designer and builder is God.

Today, we continue our journey through the Hall of Fame of Faith. So far, we have examined the story of Cain and Abel, Enoch, and last week we looked at the life of Noah. Today, we look at the story of Abraham and God’s calling and promise to him. As we examine the lives of those who have been inducted into the Hall of Fame of Faith, we find that the one key denominator in all of these stories is a unswerving faith in God. Each of these success stories is based on the individual’s faith and trust in almighty God.

The story of Abraham is no different. In the text we just read, as well as the account in Genesis 12, we find that Abraham was called to pick up stakes and move to a place he knew nothing about. We find that Abraham obeyed God because of His faith. Abraham was called by God to move outside of his comfort zone and what was familiar to him. For us personally, there are times where God will challenge us and shake us so that we are moved into a new perspective, a new way of thinking, and a new calling or service to God.

As I think of this story the question that comes to mind is “How many of us love to play it safe?” Too often we choose to live in a place of comfort and contentment. We put stakes into the ground and huddle around that which is comfortable and that which is familiar rather than stepping outside of our comfort zone. Abraham was definitely called to move outside his comfort zone in order to accomplish God’s will and purpose. He was called to move to a place he did not know and to a people he was not familiar with. In fact, I would argue today that Abraham could not fulfill God’s promise where he was, he had to move. He had to go to where he could be best used for the Kingdom of God.

For us today we must recognize that God moves us out of our comfort zone for several reasons. For one, sometimes, we need to be shaken out of our comfort zones because we have become so comfortable with our current status that we don’t do anything to better ourselves or those around us. Sometimes, we need to be moved out of our comfort zone because God cannot use us as much as he can when we live in that place. God does this because He has a better plan for our life. And finally, God has to shake us from our comfort zone because in our comfort zone we can become self-centered and inwardly focused. The result is that too often we become ineffective in our service to God.

Listen to Abrahams’s story in Genesis 12:1-5. Now the Lord said to Abram, “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.” So Abram went, as the Lord had told him, and Lot went with him. Abram was seventy-five years old when he departed from Haran. And Abram took Sarai his wife, and Lot his brother’s son, and all their possessions that they had gathered, and the people that they had acquired in Haran, and they set out to go to the land of Canaan.

Listen to the process involved with the call of Abram. God called him to leave the country of his kindred, the place of his heritage, and he was to leave his family and he was go to the land that God would show him. Think about this. We all have an infinity toward our families but what would you do if God called you to pack your bags, leave home, and go where he wanted you to go but you would not know where you were going until you got there? Would you go?

God calls Abraham to leave everything that is a part of his identity. He was called to give up his cultural identity, his family identity, and his inheritance. In a sense, this reminds us of the words of Paul in the book of Philippians and his desire to give up things for God. Paul said this But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith— that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead (Philippians 3:7-11).

Do you here the echo of the call of Abraham in these words? To make Paul’s words even more significant, we must look at the preceding verses to see that Paul had just given the church at Philippi his resume. He listed his degrees. He detailed his family heritage and his family genealogy because that was what made a man in that day important and it gave him status in the land. But in the end, Paul stated that he counted all of that loss. He counted that as rubbish or garbage when compared to what he was to gain through a personal relationship with Christ. You see Paul weighed out the fact that he wanted a personal relationship with Christ more than he wanted to be known by his degrees or his heritage. Through Paul, a new standard was being set. It was a standard that measured our importance not by our social status but by a personal dynamic relationship with Jesus Christ.

As we look at this lesson this morning let me make a couple of observations. First, it is noteworthy that we do not have much of a response from Abraham.  All we know is that God called and Abraham obeyed. There is no discussion on Abraham’s part. He does not argue with God. He simply obeyed the call of God. The question for us is how many times do we argue with God about something He is calling us to do? We debate. We argue. We think of every excuse we can come up with as to why we should not do the thing or things that God has called us to. Sometimes the arguments are based in genuine issues but we if we are not careful we can argue obedience away. I would also note that God does not generally call us to give up everything necessarily but He may call us to step outside of what we are familiar with.

The second lesson here is that true obedience to God is an expression of faith in God. It has been said and I wholeheartedly agree that our faith is expressed in our obedience. We are saved by faith and not works but it is our faith that drives us toward obedience to God’s word and to His calling upon our life. So in essence, our obedience to God is in fact our faith being expressed. While our works do not save us they do demonstrate our trust and confidence in God.

James had it so right when he made the following statements in James 1:22-25. But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror. For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like. But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing.

Abraham was promised a great blessing if he responded in faith to the call of God. Abraham did his part and God did His. You see for us today the greatest act of obedience we can have is our obedience to the Word of God. We read, we listen, and we obey. In James 2:14-24 James stated the following. What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead. But someone will say, “You have faith and I have works.” Show me your faith apart from your works, and I will show you my faith by my works. You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe—and shudder! Do you want to be shown, you foolish person, that faith apart from works is useless? Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered up his son Isaac on the altar? You see that faith was active along with his works, and faith was completed by his works; and the Scripture was fulfilled that says, “Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness”—and he was called a friend of God. You see that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone.

Here is what James is saying. Put your money where your mouth is. Abraham was truly saved by faith but his works testified to the fact that he had faith to trust God with his life. In our story today, we see the faith of Abraham expressed. He responds to the call of God to go. Why, because he had faith. What is amazing is that Abraham did not have the whole story at his disposal and yet he was fully and completely obedient to God.

As we look at the life of faith we must underhand that the call of God does not come without obstacles and issues. God had promised Abraham that he would be the father of many nations. This was all great except that both Sara and Abraham were past their prime as it related to having children. Abraham was 75 years old. But their faith was focused not in their age but in a God who was big enough to do what He said He would do. They had a confidence in God that nothing was impossible with God. Even if he was too old, God could work in miraculous ways to fulfill His promise and His word. He was to become the father of many nations and God would fulfill His promises whatever it take.

So what does all of this mean for us today? When God calls us we can step out in faith and believe that He will fulfill His will in us. Sometimes the unknown can and will scare us. But if our faith in God is bigger than our fear of the unknown we will survive and will be sustained in great and powerful ways. Our job is to be obedient and God will do the rest. Sometimes it means that we observe a need in the church and we become the vessel and channel through which God provides and uses us to touch others. Perhaps it is serving in a ministry that we do not feel comfortable with but we see a need. We hear the call and we obey by serving Him. Are you listening because God is calling and He is speaking today.

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Copyright © 2016 All Rights Reserved Robert W. Odom

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By Faith: Doing the Impossible

Peninsula Community Church

By Faith: Doing the Impossible

October 2, 2016 

Hebrews 11:7By faith Noah, being warned by God concerning events as yet unseen, in reverent fear constructed an ark for the saving of his household. By this he condemned the world and became an heir of the righteousness that comes by faith.

Today, we will continue our journey through the hall of fame of faith. So far, we have seen that the one common denominator throughout this chapter is faith. Each person included in this chapter had an undeniable level of faith that was focused on a unshakable trust in God. Their faith positioned them to be able to trust God regardless of the circumstances of their life or the influences around them. Today’s story is no different.

In the passage before us we find that Noah had faith. It was Noah’s faith that moved him and provided him the basis of his commitment to accomplish the tasks he was given. We find that Noah was warned about the events that were to come and in reverent fear Noah responded to God’s call. Through faith he set out to do the impossible against incredible odds and massive resistance.

As we look at the story of Noah, we find it is a story of contrasts. The world around Noah had turned against God and was going about their daily lives but they made one major mistake. They had left God out of the equation. To understand the contrasts between Noah and the world we must go back in time to Genesis 6 to see what the Bible has to say about the condition of the world at that time. Listen to the words Moses penned about the condition of that generation. The Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually… Now the earth was corrupt in God’s sight, and the earth was filled with violence. And God saw the earth, and behold, it was corrupt, for all flesh had corrupted their way on the earth (Genesis 6:5, 11-12). The world in Noah’s day was a sad commentary of man being left to his own devices. They were living life without God. They were going through the motions without a moral compass to guide them.

In this passage we see that the Lord did not just base his judgment of the people on their actions but He saw their heart and He saw that their hearts were continually evil. As we look at this passage we are reminded that God judges the heart of man. He does not just judge the outward expression of man as much as He looks to see the motivation of one’s heart. It is noteworthy that mankind was not just evil but they were continually evil. The communication here is that they made it a habit to do evil and they were so caught up their evil ways that they knew no other way to exist.

The sad part of this story is that because of the sinfulness of the day God’s heart broke. The Scripture tells us that the Lord regretted that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him to his heart. So the Lord said, “I will blot out man whom I have created from the face of the land, man and animals and creeping things and birds of the heavens, for I am sorry that I have made them” (Genesis 6:6-7). 

It is hard to believe that God would be so upset with His creation that He would seek to destroy them and yet that is just what the Bible tells us. He was so upset that He actually regretted that He had created mankind. It is hard to beige that this is the same creation that He created in Genesis 1-3 and He called it good. But now His heart was broken. The actions of man had grieved the heart of God. The broken heart of God was not a reaction from a heart of evil on God’s part but one of love because what they were doing was not His plan. It was not His desire. But yet it was the reality of the day and He needed to do something to save mankind.

You see we can also grieve the heart of God when we refuse to obey God’s will. But we must understand that the attitude exhibited by those in Noah’s day was more than just bad decisions. They had become darkened in their minds and their heart. Their entire motivation was evil and they were focused on wrong doing. They had no desire to serve God or obey His commands. That is the sadness of this story.

In Matthew 24:36-39 we find these words from the Lord Himself in addressing when the Son of Man which is Christ would return to earth to take His children home. The attitude of the world was not much different. But concerning that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father only. For as were the days of Noah, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day when Noah entered the ark, and they were unaware until the flood came and swept them all away, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. The story of Noah has become the measuring stick of the future promise of Christ’s return. It is my belief that we are living in just such a time today. People have turned from God and are trusting in their themselves and not God.

As we move back to the Genesis account we find that while the world was falling apart. God was looking for a man that would be different. In Genesis we see that Noah found favor in the eyes of the Lord… Noah was a righteous man, blameless in his generation. Noah walked with God. Noah found favor in the eyes of the Lord. He was spiritually impressive. As we read this text we find that Noah’s life exemplified the life that God could use for His kingdom. What Noah did not know is that he was about to be chosen for a task that by many, including Noah himself, would think was impossible. We will look at that in a moment but for now let us look at what qualified Noah for the task he was about to be called to. In the text, we find three distinct qualities that placed Noah in a position to be used for the mission God was calling Him to. These distinct qualities set Noah apart.

First, Noah was righteous man. His life exhibited the righteousness of God. It is noteworthy that he lived righteously even though the world around him did not do so. While the world’s heart was filled with sin and continuous evil, Noah chose to live differently. He chose to live righteously. His heart was pure and he sought to honor God the best he could. In Hebrews 11 we find that he was a man of righteousness in the here and now but he also was given the promise of an eternal righteousness that was yet to come.

The second quality associated with Noah’s life is that he lived a blameless life. This did not mean that Noah was a perfect man. But he lived in a way that few could find any fault in his life. It is my guess that Noah made mistakes and had issues but the thing that set him apart is that he was willing to deal with his issues in a way that no one could accuse him of sin or wrong.

The third quality possessed by Noah is that he walked with God. If you remember our study from last week we find that Enoch was a model for Noah’s life. It is interesting to note that while Enoch was taken, Noah was left on earth to be used by God to bring about God’s purposes and God’s will for the world. God had a different plan for each of these Godly men. It is for that reason that we must never come to the place where we become jealous about how God uses us. I wonder how many times Noah wished God would do to him what He did to Enoch and just take him. But Noah needed to follow through with the plans that had been given to him. He was chosen for a specific mission.

Because of the qualities exhibited by Noah he was able to stand against the norms of the day. Because of these qualities God was going to use Noah to preach repentance to the world in which he lived. You see even in the judgment that was to come God’s grace was evident. He sent Noah to preach a message of hope. You see it was never God’s desire to destroy the world. His intent was to see the world repent and change their ways but as we read the entire story of Noah’s life we find that man did not repent. In fact, they rejected the call of Noah to repent. They in fact rejected God. So once again we can not blame God for the destruction of the world. It was a choice they made to reject God’s calling.

In this story God called Noah to do something that seemed impossible. God called Noah to Make yourself an ark of gopher wood. God wanted Noah to build an ark to preserve the life of God’s creation. That was no small undertaking. There are three things that seemed to make this an impossible task. First of all he was to build a boat that would measure 450 feet in length, 45 feet high and 75 feet wide by hand. Plus it would take anywhere from 75 years to 120 years to build and stock the ark with food. Can you imagine if you were called to build such a thing by hand or do something that was based solely on the call of God. There is no doubt that the people of the land mocked and ridiculed him big time.

Secondly this seems to be an impossible task because there had been no significant rain on the earth since the earth had been created. From the time of creation to this moment in time the earth was covered with a canopy that provided a tropical environment where the condensation and dew was enough to water the land.

A third problem is that no one believed in Noah’s mission or his message. They did not believe that God was going to destroy the earth. Why would He? They were having too much fun. They would never believe Noah’s call to repentance. Noah had an impossible task but he would stand up for God as he was a man who was full of faith and he knew that God would be with him and would guide him. Why? By faith Noah built the ark. He did the impossible for God.

Noah did it and so can we. So how does this apply to us today? God is calling us to stand strong when the world around us is falling apart. The world is a mess but God is still in control. As with Noah we are called to preach a message of hope but we must understand that we are not responsible for what people do with the message we share. We continue to share and preach a message of hope regardless of how people respond. We do this by faith and by our trust in God who is able to do above and beyond what we think or ask Him to do.

And finally, we never know what we will be called to do that seems impossible. It might be a health issue. It might be life without a loved one. It could be a major change in our life. Whatever the issues, we have the promise that God will be with us and that He will keep us no matter what happens. Are you ready? Let’s do it.

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Copyright © 2016 All Rights Reserved Robert W. Odom

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